Central health board rescinds decision to shut down sendero
Reversal follows hours of public pleas; finance arrangements unclear.
Sendero Health Plans might continue to exist for at least another year after Central Health board members Saturday voted unanimously to rescind an earlier budget decision that had shuttered the nonprofit insurer.
The board at press time had not decided whether and how to fund Sendero, which provides low-cost insurance to 24,000 low-income Travis County residents. But after hearing hours of public testimony from members who depend on the coverage to obtain medication and live healthy lives, some members who had previously voted to shut Sendero down were wavering.
For many, keeping Sendero
reported losses year after year since it was created in 2011. Some members also were concerned about the going or starting to wind it future of the ACA. down came down to a difBut when Travis County ference of $2 million. commissioners were set
According to board memTuesday to approve Cenbers, it would take $26 mil- tral Health’s $258 million lion to fund Sendero com- budget for fiscal 2019, many pletely for the next fiscal Sendero members testified year, compared with the about their dismay at los$24 million it previously ing their health coverage. approved for the wind-down. Commissioners delayed the
“If anybody looks well at Fimreite told the board. budget vote until last Tuesour budget, you will find “This is a health insurance day and gave Central Health places to rearrange that company that has allowed another week to reconsider money so that additional me to stand here right now. funding. $2 million will be there,” Blue Cross denied all the Jones suggested the board board member Cynthia Vala- drugs that I needed to live come up with a plan on how dez said. “This risk is well happily and to function as an to move some of the sickest worth the effort.” adult. I hear marketplace, I community members who
Board m ember S han- hear business, I hear money, receive care through Central non Jones, who had previI hear finance. I understand Health’s Managed Access Proously voted to shut down that. But the reason I am here gram onto Sendero’s health the insurer, said Saturday as a person today is because plan, which would cut down that “I think another year Sendero is the first company on the amount of money the would be an appropriate in my entire life that made health district has to send to opportunity for Sendero to me feel like I was alive.” the federal government for get its act together.” Many others were emo- its risk-adjustment program.
“I am truly concerned tional as they spoke, sayThe ACA requires insurabout the faith and trust ing the board had made its ers with healthier patients this community will have decision in the 11th hour and to help insurers with sicker in Central Health ... if we had no clear plan for how patients pay for their medshould not make this effort,” to help Sendero members. ical needs. Sendero had to she said. “You have to understand return some of the money
Jones’ statements came the community’s pain,” Gus- from the federal government after listening to dozens of tavo Peña said. “Twenty-four because its membership is people testify in favor of thousand people risk their relatively healthy. keeping Sendero at a pubhealth care. Let’s not do any The reversal on the board’s lic hearing Saturday. catastrophic cuts that hurts previous budget decision
Ryan Fimreite, who was our community. We have met with elation from the diagnosed with his third enough problems out there.” crowd of about 30, who chronic illness two months Board members had voted stayed through the evening. ago around the same time Sept. 12 in favor of winding After a short recess Saturhe witnessed a fatal shoot- down the nonprofit insur- day night, members were ing in Austin, said he gets ance provider, which proexpected to decide how to mental health services and vides its IdealCare plan fund the nonprofit insurer. other treatments through through the Affordable Care his Sendero plan. Act. The 4-3 decision was
“The only reason I am alive based largely on financial ... is because of Sendero,” problems, since Sendero has
Members of the audience at a Central Health board meeting held signs calling for saving of the lowcost Sendero Health Plans program.
Gustavo Peña speaks Saturday in favor of Sendero Health Plans during a Central Health public hearing. Peña told the board it needed to “understand the community’s pain” at the board’s earlier decision to close Sendero.