Health Alliance for Austin Musicians will be able to provide health care for 500 more local musicians next year as part of an expansion of its program with Central Health.
Central Health — Travis County’s hospital district, which is responsible for providing care to local people who can’t afford health care — will spend an additional $1 million on its program with the musicians health alliance, known as HAAM, to provide the services.
The artists will be enrolled in the IdealCare insurance plan from Sendero Health Plans, which is Central Health’s health insurance program and offers plans on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.
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Central Health is funded by a property tax rate of 9.864 cents per $100 valuation for 2023.
Through its partnership with HAAM, Central Health subsidizes the premiums of HAAM members at an average cost of $221 per month per client. Central Health has a $305 million budget for 2023 and plans to spends $137 million on health care services.
The enrollment period ends on Jan. 15, but some HAAM members who earn less than 150% of the federal poverty level might be able to enroll after that date.
“Central Health’s partnership with HAAM is vital to the health of our community,” said Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin. “We are thankful that HAAM has a system in place to connect with low-income musicians and help them enroll in health insurance. Looking forward, our partnership with HAAM will serve as the model for establishing similar programs.”
Since HAAM was founded in 2005, it has helped 6,500 musicians access $123 million in health care services.
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James Bookert, of the Austin-based band San Gabriel, is a HAAM client and has been receiving premium assistance. “I had a seizure in January 2020 and having Sendero health insurance helped immensely with the expenses of my hospital stay, tests, medication, MRI and neurologist visits,” he said. “I doubt I would have been able to get my life back on track without this support. I’m beyond grateful.”
This program is only for HAAM members, although Central Health has other premium assistance programs. It enrolls people with certain chronic conditions who are on its Medical Access Program, or MAP, into the Sendero program by paying their premiums. MAP is Central Health’s own insurance plan for people with low incomes who do not qualify for other programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid.
Central Health has about 2,200 people on Sendero insurance plans, including 1,070 individuals through HAAM, 252 people on non-HAAM assistance programs, and 777 in its high-risk program.
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Changes coming at Central Health, Sendero
In January, Central Health will have two new board members. Ann Kitchen, the outgoing District 5 representative on the Austin City Council, was appointed to the board by the Travis County Commissioners Court. Dr. Manuel Martin was appointed by the Austin City Council. The Central Health Board is not elected. Instead, half of its members are nominated by the city and half by the county.
Kitchen and Martin replace departing board members Sherri Greenberg and Julie Zuniga.
Other changes are underway at Central Health and Sendero Health Plans. Sendero CEO Wes Durskalski has left after leading Sendero since 2014.
This fall, Durskalski encountered opposition when he tried to get Central Health to back guaranteed funding for a Medicaid contract with the state that he wanted Sendero to pursue. He raised the issue during a meeting of the Commissioners Court, even though it had been voted down by the Sendero board and had not been discussed at the Central Health board, which oversees Sendero.
Perla Cavazos, Central Health deputy administrator, will lead Sendero on an interim basis, while a search for a permanent CEO begins.