Central Health proposes cutting property tax rate, increasing services as part of FY 2023 budget

New Plan Calls for $85M Spending Increase in Patient Services

(AUSTIN) — Central Health is proposing numerous, significant expansions to healthcare services for Travis County residents with low income in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget. These expansions are the direct result of years of planning, culminating in the recently adopted Healthcare Equity Plan.

 

 

To support the proposed FY 2023 budget, Central Health’s Board of Managers voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a property tax rate of 9.8684 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The current FY 2022 tax rate is 11.1814 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Following a planned public hearing on Aug. 31, the Board of Managers is scheduled to vote on the budget and tax rate on Sept. 7. The proposed budget then goes before the Travis County Commissioners Court on Sept. 8 for a work session, with the court scheduled to vote on final approval Sept. 20. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The Commissioners Court unanimously approved Central Health’s FY 2022 budget last September.

The proposed FY 2023 budget will be $300,750,381, with projected expenditures of $302,318,237.

“This budget allows Central Health to continue our priority projects in Eastern Travis County as well as work on the gaps in our healthcare delivery system as outlined in our Healthcare Equity plan, all while continuing to provide an increased level of healthcare services to our low-income population,” said Dr. Charles Bell, chairperson of the Board of Managers. “And even more importantly we are able to accomplish the above by holding the line on the tax rate and being strategic in our funding decisions for the taxpayers in Travis County.”

The biggest difference in the new budget is the additional $85 million Central Health will invest in expanded capacity across many areas of care, such as primary, specialty, transition of care, and care management. These are key areas identified in the Healthcare Equity Plan. With the increasing growth of Travis County, and national trends on provider shortages, gaps in the healthcare system are exacerbated. These issues are compounded by decades-old inequities in social determinants have led to healthcare disparities among members of the Medical Access Program (MAP) and MAP Basic, the community served by Central Health consisting of residents living at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Many MAP and MAP Basic members also belong to traditionally underserved and minority populations in Travis County.

“This budget will connect even more people to health care and coverage, and that’s why Central Health was created by voters in 2004. Next year, we will care for people at more locations with more providers and services, and that’s what motivates us to stay focused and persistent,” said Mike Geeslin, President & CEO of Central Health.

The new Healthcare Equity Plan identified the biggest concentration of people with low income living along the I-35 corridor, illustrating a need for additional, accessible services along that route. As part of a plan to address those gaps, the soon-to-be renovated Rosewood-Zaragosa health center will serve MAP members as a state-of-the-art multi-specialty care clinic beginning summer of 2023. The newly renovated clinic will be home to specialty healthcare in six disciplines: neurology, nephrology, cardiology, gastroenterology, podiatry, and pulmonology. Central Health is engaging specialists in all six areas, as well as additional healthcare and administrative staff, to reduce wait times for MAP patients needing a specialist consultation.

“With the new clinic and added specialists, we’re expecting to serve an additional 25,000 to 40,000 patient encounters next year,” said Dr. Alan Schalscha, Chief Medical Officer for Central Health. “This will be a big step towards improving the health and well-being of the communities we serve, since we currently have MAP patients who sometimes must wait weeks or even months to see a specialist because of the backlog. Rosewood Zaragosa will alleviate that wait time.”

Central Health broke ground this summer on two new health and wellness centers in Eastern Travis County — Del Valle and Hornsby Bend — which is a traditionally underserved region that is also experiencing a massive growth in population. Both new Eastern Travis County clinics are expected to open in the summer of 2023. Central Health is continuing to advance its plans for the health and wellness center in Colony Park.

PERFORMANCE REVIEW

At the recommendation of Travis County Commissioner’s Court, Central Health undergoes an independent performance review every five years to assess how well the organization is meeting the needs of Travis County residents. The last performance review was conducted in 2017 and presented to the Board of Managers and Commissioner’s Court in 2018. One of the main recommendations in the report was to develop a strategic plan to address equity-focused healthcare service delivery, which resulted in the creation of the Healthcare Equity Plan, approved by the Board of Managers in February.

“We take these performance reviews very seriously,” said Monica Crowley, Chief Strategy/Planning Officer and Senior Counsel for Central Health. “It’s part of our effort to be clearly transparent to Travis County taxpayers that we are being fiscally responsible in our fiduciary duties while serving our patient population. Our next review will take place next year.”

Central Health’s financial reporting is also subject to annual scrutiny, undergoing an audit by a third-party firm. Central Health has received a clean, independent financial audit every year since its inception in 2004. Additionally, for the past three years, Central Health has won the prestigious Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.

FY 2022 IN REVIEW

Central Health served more than 147,000 patients in Travis County, about one-ninth of the population. Central Health worked with its partners such as CommUnityCare to set up COVID-19 vaccination sites at Rosewood Zaragosa and the Circuit of the Americas.

Recently, Central Health signed a new contract to offer methadone services to its patients as part of the battle to combat opioid addiction in Travis County. The county identified accidental drug overdoses as the number one cause of death for residents.

Central Health also partnered with Austin Public Health to educate the public about the monkeypox virus, which began spreading more rapidly in Travis County over recent weeks.

“We’re very pleased with what we were able to accomplish in FY 2022 and look forward to accomplishing even more during the upcoming year,” Dr. Bell said.

This press release was provided by Central Health.