health care services

A proposed UT medical school and teaching hospital cannot be established without additional revenue from a property tax increase, according to UT officials.

Residents will vote Nov. 6 on whether to fund the proposed school and teaching hospital through an increase in taxes of 5 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Proposition 1 would increase property taxes collected by Central Health, a taxing district that funds health care services for underserved citizens in Travis County, from 7.89 cents to 12.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the average Travis County homeowner would pay an additional $107.40 in property taxes if the proposition passes.

In a memo sent to faculty and staff, Steven Leslie, UT executive vice president and provost, said Proposition 1 would provide $35 million annually for the teaching hospital.

“For us, this is a yes or no proposition,” Leslie said. “Without a complete and reliable source of new funding, we will not be able to start a medical school.”

In May, the UT System Board of Regents pledged $30 million per year for eight years and $25 million per year afterward after the Seton Family of Hospitals made a $250 million preliminary commitment to the hospital. In August, the Austin American-Statesman reported that the school will cost an estimated $4.1 billion over 12 years.

No location or timeline for construction of the medical school and teaching hospital has been set.

Carlos Femat, community relations manager at Central Health, said the tax increase would produce $54 million in annual revenue. He said the federal government will match each dollar of local funding with $1.46 in additional funds. The combination of the tax increase and federal matching funds will create more than $130 million annually.

Proposition 1 aims to provide health care services to underserved and uninsured residents. According to a report compiled by the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University, about 23 percent of Travis County residents in 2010 had either no health insurance or were not fully insured.

Don Zimmerman, founder and treasurer of Travis County Taxpayers Union, a political action committee that opposes the increase, said there is no need for a new medical school and teaching hospital because the UT Southwestern Medical Center operates a residency program in Austin at University Medical Center Brackenridge.

“If Travis County really needed the school, they would have already built it,” he said.

Property owners in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, currently pay 27 cents per $100 of assessed property value to the county’s hospital district. In 2011, property owners in Harris County, which includes Houston, paid 19 cents per $100 of assessed property value to the Harris County Hospital District. Proposition 1 would increase the Travis County property tax rate collected by Central Health to 12.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

If voters approve the initiative, the proposed medical school would join six health institutions operated by the UT System in Dallas, Houston, Tyler, San Antonio and Galveston.

Some schools, including the UT Southwestern Medical Center and the UT Health Science Center at Houston, use local hospitals funded primarily by city property taxes.

Printed on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 as: Vote on tax to seal fate for hospital

Editor's note: Corrected on December 7, 2011 at 2:42 a.m.

After growing concerns over the state’s ability to pay for health care services for its inmates, the University’s Board of Regents has taken a solid stance on providing health care for the state’s correctional facilities — pay the bills or find another provider.

The UT Board of Regents approved a new agreement Monday between the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice guaranteeing UTMB will be paid the remaining $45 million for the services it provides to inmates. If left unpaid, the agreement laid out measures to transition UTMB’s services out of the facilities or terminate them completely. UTMB’s total cost of services for the 2012 fiscal year is $430.5 million, including the $6.3 million left unpaid from the previous two year period, according to UTMB spokesman Raul Reyes. The state currently still owes UTMB $45 million, he said.

The agreement demands the Texas Department of Criminal Justice request $45 million from its 2013 fiscal budget for health care from the Legislative Budget Board to cover the money it still owes UTMB. Under the new agreement, UTMB will continue to provide health care services to the state for the remainder of the 2012 fiscal year, which ends in August, and will continue negotiations as to whether UTMB will provide care in 2013.

UT System spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said this was not the first time concerns about TDCJ’s ability to pay have been raised to the Board of Regents.

“The Board approved an extension of the contract last month and prior to that concerns have been raised,” de Bruyn said.

He said the Board was satisfied with the agreement both parties have come up with.

Reyes said that out of UTMB’s 11,000 employees, approximately 3,000 of them work in the state’s prison facilities. Both entities have been working together to provide health care to inmates since 1994.

“For years, we would get supplemental appropriations after we had provided care, and they were not always enough to cover the bill,” he said.

Reyes said UTMB always believed the new agreement with TDCJ would be approved.

“Throughout all this, everyone needs to know that patient care was never interrupted,” Reyes said. “We continued to provide care at one of the lowest costs throughout the nation, and we’re thankful that a solution has been worked out to make sure that the health care is continued.”

TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said UTMB is the primary health care provider for 87 state facilities consisting of 120,000 inmates. Texas Tech University Health Science Center also provides health care for the state. He said biennial agreements are renegotiated based on legislative appropriations and renegotiated after each legislative session.

Clark said the request to the Legislative Budget Board for $45 million from state health care service’s budget for the fiscal year of 2013 has not been approved by the Legislative Budget Board.

Printed on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 as: Regents negotiate state inmate health care debts