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Travis County Taxpayers Union Considers Suing Central Health Again

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

A recent property tax increase will help a nonprofit distribute up to $130 million a year to deliver healthcare in Travis County. Part of Travis County's hospital district, Central Health, said it's forming the nonprofit to help manage that money and help with day to day operations. Since the group is labeled a nonprofit, it’s not required to meet in public. We went to Central Health to talk about transparency and your tax dollars.

Although the nonprofit will help manage hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, the President and CEO of Central Health, Patricia Young Brown, said it's not breaking any law. Still, others are screaming for more accountability.

In November, voters approved Proposition One to overhaul healthcare services in Travis County. That raised property tax values, generating an expected $50 million taxpayer dollars a year. To help manage that money, Central Health is forming Community Care Collaborative.

"What this new entity is doing is providing more information and better care to come back and report to the board," Young Brown said.

She told us the board, made up of her and four other unelected officials, will make all policy decisions when it comes to healthcare delivery. All of their meetings are required to be public.

The nonprofit, she explained, will help with daily operations, administering how the healthcare gets delivered. Young Brown said behind closed doors, the nonprofit can be more productive and protect patient privacy. She told KEYE TV Central Health will be transparent with taxpayers.

"They will know where the money is and how it is spent and what's been done with the money because that's on Central Health’s side and that is open," Young Brown said.

"This is about avoiding responsibility," Don Zimmerman, with the Travis County Taxpayers Union said about the nonprofit.

He spearheaded opposition to Prop One. Zimmerman said whenever public money is involved, even under a nonprofit, the information discussed should also be public.

"When they say it’s all operational, I say they want to operate without any oversight, they want to operate without open meetings and without accountability to the voters," Zimmerman said.

"I could envision a circumstance where there may be something to hold open meetings about," Young Brown speculated about the future of the nonprofit. "But that's different from being required. This entity is not required to hold open meetings."

To change that, Zimmerman said the Taxpayers Union is considering filing a new lawsuit against Central Health.

Community Care Collaborative is expected to start meeting in March. If you would like to voice your opinion or any concerns to Central Health about its plan, it's holding a public meeting this Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Their offices are located at 1111 East Cesar Chavez Street.

State Senator Kirk Watson was a big proponent of starting a medical school in Austin and was instrumental in passing Proposition One. In a statement he said, "It goes without saying that major public policy decisions should be made in public, consistent with state and federal laws. Central Health and the collaborative owe it to the public to be as open as possible."

By Katherine Stolp Travis County Taxpayers Union Considers Suing Central Health Again



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