Texas

Finances drive out local Obamacare insurance plan for 24,000 Texans

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The publicly funded health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act, Central Health's Sendero, will be phased out. The Central Health Board voted 4 to 3 to end the health insurance plan funded by Travis County taxpayers to help low-income Texans. 

The plan currently covers around 24,000 Central Texans, but those members will have to choose another plan through the ACA exchange this fall. 

Earlier this year, Sendero ended its health insurance through the Medicaid and CHIP programs. This last step will effectively end the plan in Central Texas.

East Austin doctor Guadalupe Zamora is the chair of the Central Health board and describes a very tough choice. 

"We're a local, small, insurance company. We don't have the big bucks the Blues do, the Aetnas do, or the Uniteds do. We don't have that large risk pool that's required to keep costs down," said Dr. Zamora.

He says it was just too difficult for Sendero to plan for the future. The Trump administration is dismantling the current federal law.

"We're at their mercy whether Congress and the president will continue this program. We're hoping it does," said Dr. Zamora.

Obamacare sets up a pool of money to help people get health insurance. Organizations with unhealthy populations get paid out of it.

Sendero paid into it because the Austin population is younger, more active and healthier. They could no longer afford it.

"It works for some. It doesn't work for others," said the president of Central Health, Mike Geeslin. He says everyone on the plan will have insurance through the end of the year. However this fall, they'll have to enroll in another plan.

"While this has been a tough decision for the board, certainly a milestone for Central Health, we will move forward," said Geeslin.

The Travis County Commissioners Court will have to approve the new phase-out budget next Tuesday. The official end date of the Sendero ACA health insurance plan will be Jan. 1 after the Texas Department of Insurance signs off on the changes.

This isn't the first time patients on Sendero's health plans have been left to find other options. In May they stopped accepting Texas star Medicaid patients and children's insurance, known as CHIP.


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