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Central Health board chair lays out case against nominee

Monday, June 5, 2017 by Jack Craver

The chair of the Central Health Board of Managers is ramping up the pressure on City Council to reject an applicant to the board due to the applicant’s position with a major hospital.

In a lengthy letter sent Friday to Council Member Ora Houston, who chairs the Council Health and Human Services Committee, board Chair Katrina Daniel argued that Julie Oliver, who Council is considering appointing to fill a vacancy on the board, will have to recuse herself from much of the board’s most important business due to her high-level position with St. David’s HealthCare.

The letter came in response to a request for information from Houston about conflicts Oliver might face if she is approved for the position. At a hearing on Oliver’s appointment last month, no Council member expressed concerns about potential conflicts and several have expressed support for appointing Oliver. Nor did any citizens speak to the issue, although a number expressed disappointment that only two members of the nine-member board are Latino.

However, in an interview with the Austin Monitor last week, Daniel said that Oliver’s vow to recuse herself from matters directly related to St. David’s would likely not be enough to free her from potential conflicts.

In her letter to Houston, Daniel described myriad conflicts. She noted, for instance, that nearly half of Central Health annual budget goes to reimbursing hospitals – including St. David’s – for providing uncompensated care to indigent patients. In addition, Sendero Health Plans, the health insurance plan that Central Health operates, not only competes with plans operated by St. David’s, but it must negotiate reimbursement rates with area hospitals, including St. David’s.

“Given the competitive, proprietary nature of this business, it is highly likely that all aspects of Sendero’s business pose a significant conflict” to Oliver, wrote Daniel.

Council is scheduled to take up Oliver’s appointment to the board at its June 15 meeting.

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