Cen­tral health board re­scinds de­ci­sion to shut down sen­dero

Re­ver­sal fol­lows hours of pub­lic pleas; fi­nance ar­range­ments un­clear.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - METRO & STATE - By Mary Hu­ber

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

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZ­IELL / AMER­I­CANSTATES­MAN

Mem­bers of the au­di­ence at a Cen­tral Health board meet­ing held signs call­ing for sav­ing of the low­cost Sen­dero Health Plans pro­gram.

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZ­IELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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.

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