So Long Sendero Health Plans?

Nonprofit health insurer could be phased out by close of 2019

So Long Sendero Health Plans?

Saturday marks the latest, and perhaps final, milestone for Sendero Health Plans, after the Central Health Board of Managers requested a delay in approving the health care district's FY 2019 budget to receive further public input. That budget, which was slated to be approved Tuesday by the Travis County Commissioners Court, calls for winding down Sendero by the end of 2019.

Sendero, a nonprofit health insurer serving Travis County residents, was created by Central Health in 2011 as an extension of its mission to improve access to care, and later took advantage of the Affordable Care Act marketplace to build its customer base to currently cover 24,000 people. However, Sendero has lost increasing amounts of money, finishing last year about $33 million in the red, and has already exited the market for Medicaid and CHIP coverage. Faced with this grim financial picture, the board of managers voted 4-3 last week to cap Sendero funding in the FY 2019 budget at $24 million, tantamount to shutting it down a year from now.

This is naturally not going over well with some of those covered by Sendero, who along with members of the League of United Latin American Citizens and other Central Health critics appealed to the Commis­sioners Court, which by statute has to approve Central Health's budget, but can't change it. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt says that for her, "the board needs to make a decision about how to cap its risk going forward, and whatever decision that is, I can support it. Whatever that decision is, it's not arbitrary or capricious." It's not clear, however, that a majority of the court agrees, although their options are limited.

While the board – which has been talking about Sendero (much of the time in executive session) for months – may have felt that it made that decision already, Central Health stresses that the Saturday meeting is not a formality. "We're going to embrace all that people have to offer," Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin told commissioners, "because that helps inform the decision."


The Board of Managers special meeting is Sat., Sept. 22, 1pm, at Central Health’s headquarters, 1111 E. Cesar Chavez.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Sendero Health Plans
Sendero’s Path Forward
Sendero’s Path Forward
Community health plan gets one-year budget reprieve

Mike Clark-Madison, Sept. 28, 2018

More by Mike Clark-Madison
Austin at Large – Texas: Still Broken, Still Sad
Austin at Large – Texas: Still Broken, Still Sad
Abbott stays one step ahead of the mob amid Lone Star and Uvalde fallout

Sept. 30, 2022

TribFest Recap: Liz Cheney Chooses To Go Out the Hard Way
TribFest Recap: Liz Cheney Chooses To Go Out the Hard Way
Scion of power learns the limits of 21st century politics

Sept. 25, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Sendero Health Plans, Central Health, Sarah Eckhardt, Mike Geeslin

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle