NAACP and LULAC want independent performance audit of Central Health

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Wednesday, members of NAACP-Austin and Texas LULAC District VII held a press conference calling on Travis County commissioners to order an independent, third-party performance audit of Central Health.

Central Health is the public hospital district serving residents of Travis County. According to its website, Central Health’s primary goal is to “provide vulnerable, low-income, uninsured Travis County residents with access to quality health care coverage and services.”

NAACP and LULAC laid out their eight areas of concern in what they call an “alarm report.” Groups want a performance audit of each of the concerns listed here. Nelson Linder, president of the NAACP-Austin, said it stemmed from complaints about inequities in health care on the east side of Austin.

“People are dying, it’s not just casual conversations, they have weakened immune systems and we [are dealing with] COVID-19[THESEARESERIOUSCONSEQUENCESIT’STIMETOCALLFORACCOUNTABILITYTRANSPARENCYANDTOSEEWHERETHEMONEYISSOWECANSOLVETHISISSUE”Linderexplained[FEMININECesontdesconséquencesgravesIlesttempsd’appeleràlaresponsabilitéàlatransparenceetdevoiroùestl’argentafinquenouspuissionsrésoudreceproblème»aexpliquéLinder

The groups want more documentation about Central Health’s programming with its partners.

Former Travis County Auditor Susan Spataro was at Wednesday’s press conference. She asks whether the care provided to low-income communities is “accessible and of high quality”.

Attorney Fred Lewis is representing three plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against Central Health in 2017. He says part of that lawsuit is seeking information about certain Dell Medical School expenses.

“A trial takes time. He goes on appeal. We believe the public has a right to know today exactly how the money is being spent,” Lewis said.

KXAN contacted Central Health and a spokesperson said the organization was aware of the press conference and said their attorneys had advised them that it would be inappropriate to comment on the allegations related to the ongoing litigation.

But regarding Central Health’s budget and performance review, the spokesperson said that in fiscal year 2022, more than 97% of the $506 million budget is spent on delivering health care for low-income residents.

Central Health says it served more than 147,000 people in fiscal year 2021, which the organization says represents a 6% year-over-year increase.

Central Health sent us their healthcare delivery expenses by year:
FISCAL 2018 – $227,029,205
FISCAL 2019 – $247,343,600
FISCAL 2020 – $278,017,579
FISCAL 2021 – $353,858,895
FISCAL 2022 – $491,485,796

The organization says a third-party company audits its finances annually and received a favorable audit opinion in fiscal year 2021, as it has said for years. At the request of Travis County Commissioners, Central Health says it is undergoing a five-year, third-party independent performance review to provide recommendations and assess the effectiveness of the organization. The last revision dates back to 2017 and the next in 2023.

In February, the organization said it had established a health care equity plan to address generational inequalities and systemic racism in health care. This weekend and next weekend, Central Health is opening two health and wellness centers in eastern Travis County that they say will open in 2023.

KXAN reached out to Travis County officials to see if the commissioners would modify protocols based on LULAC and NAACP concerns. We’ll update this story when we get back to you.

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