Seton Has Their Say

RECEIVED Mon., Sept. 25, 2023

Dear Editor,
    On Sept. 11, The Austin Chronicle published the story “Central Health Budget Suggests Waning Trust in Ascension.” Ascension Seton was not contacted for comment or input on the story. Had The Austin Chronicle reached out, here’s what readers would have learned about this complex issue.
    Seton has seen every MAP patient that Central Health has referred to us, in good faith, even though Central Health enrolled thousands more participants than our agreements allowed. Despite Central Health’s claims to the contrary, the goal was never to have the same number of hospital visits as in 2013. The goal was and remains to see patients in appropriate settings and, through case management, reduce the hospital visits for the 25,000 [Medical Access Program] enrollees. 
    Central Health was intended to be – and initially was – a material part of the public funding for hospital services for the safety net, but recently stopped providing funding and since 2020 has provided less than $1 million per year for these hospital services.
    By unilaterally increasing the number of patients participating in the MAP program and not paying for the additional participants, per the agreements, Central Health has left Seton with tens of millions of dollars in additional costs.
    Seton receives only partial funding from state and federal programs for services delivered to the safety net population, generally covering less than half of the cost of the services. To meet the expanded need, we depend on the strength of our system, our donors who are committed to caring for those most in need AND governmental entities (Central Health) meeting their financial and contractual commitments. 
    Year after year, Central Health has budgeted tens of millions of dollars to expand health care services for the safety net patients, and knowingly failed to spend those dollars for Travis County residents, preferring to set it aside for a future, unclear plan. Mayor Watson recently said, “...right now there are significant needs, and parts of that distant plan align directly with those immediate needs and the missions of both Central Health and Integral Care.”
    Seton has provided $5.6 billion in uncompensated care and community benefit in Central Texas over the last 10 years, as reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
    Seton has been part of Austin since 1902 and it was and is our mission to care for those most in need. Through our infrastructure, MAP patients currently have access to 15 high-quality hospitals and 250 clinics across Central Texas. Central Health’s plan would return to a fragmented, two-tier system that’s not equitable, and that costs taxpayers significantly more. The residents of Austin and Travis County deserve to hear the full story.
Jennifer Hudson
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