Raul Reyes

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

Hospital visitors walk by the entrance to the Austin Women’s Hospital on Wednesday evening.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

Because of increasing operating costs and decreased state funding, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston may cease operating the Austin Women’s Hospital located at University Medical Center Brackenridge, a UTMB spokesman said.

Legislative budget cuts reduced UTMB’s budget by $114 million over the next two years. Spokesman Raul Reyes said the health system is responding by reducing its budget by 6.1 percent for the 2012 fiscal year.

“We are being more prudent in the way that we manage our costs and are implementing measures to ensure financial success,” Reyes said in a statement. “It is projected that UTMB will sustain a $1.5 million loss on the Austin Women’s Hospital contract for fiscal year 2011. We have to mitigate those losses.”

Reyes said one cause for the projected loss is a lower-than-expected number of patients.

“We staff based on the assumption that there will be a certain level of patients coming in the door, and we don’t have that level,” Reyes said.

Central Health, formerly known as Travis County Healthcare, owns University Medical Center Brackenridge. In 1995, it leased the hospital to the Seton Healthcare Family, a Catholic health care system.

After Seton could no longer provide contraceptive and sterilization services because of the Catholic Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives, the health department took back the fifth floor of the Brackenridge building in 2002 to open a “hospital within a hospital” that could provide those services Seton could not, according to Catholic Health East, a Catholic health system.

According to the UT System, in 2003 the city of Austin and UTMB reached an agreement for UTMB to run the Austin Women’s Hospital on the fifth floor of University Medical Center Brackenridge.

If UTMB does decide to withdraw from the hospital, there are currently no plans for Seton to take over the fifth floor for its own uses, said Seton spokeswoman Adrienne Lallo.

Reyes said no decision regarding UTMB’s withdrawal has actually been made.

“We’re considering our options,” Reyes said. “We just want to make sure we do the financially responsible thing for UTMB and Texas taxpayers.”

Printed on Thursday, August 4, 2011 as: Austin hospital put on chopping block