Travis County Commissioners Court orders audit of Central Health over Dell Medical funding


Claire Stevens, News Reporter

The Travis County Commissioners Court ordered an audit of Central Health on Tuesday in response to growing concerns that it has improperly given funding to Dell Medical School.

Central Health, the public healthcare district for Travis County, has given $35 million annually to Dell Medical School since 2014, according to an agreement between the two organizations as a way to improve healthcare in the county. Critics have alleged for years that Dell Medical has improperly received funds from Central Health because the money is not used to provide healthcare to low-income residents.

A 2017 lawsuit against Central Health argued the agency does not have the authority to give these funds. A report released in March by the Austin chapter of the NAACP and the local district for the League of United Latin American Citizens identified “red flags” in Central Health’s funding to Dell Medical School. 

“The Dell Medical School has received $280 million from (Central Health) but has never produced any documentation of the specific amount and type of direct health care it has delivered for these funds,” the report said.

The funding for Dell Medical School comes from a tax increase approved in 2012. Critics said the ballot language for the 2012 proposition requires Central Health funding to be used to provide healthcare for low-income residents, according to the NAACP and LULAC report. 

Speakers at the Travis County Commissioners Court meeting in support of Central Health argued the agency is already audited every five years. However, the March report said that an independent audit would differ from the existing performance reviews because it would look at whether financial statements were accurate and in compliance with regulations that dictate how Central Health can spend funds.

Peck Young, an advocate for the independent audit, said it will verify if taxpayer money is being spent properly.

“We do not think that asking for full transparency to justify the integrity and competence of Central Health’s stewardship of public funds should be such a struggle,” Young said. “We simply believe that what we are asking for is an opportunity to find out how the money has been spent.”

Mike Geeslin, the president and CEO of Central Health, said he welcomes the audit so long as the review is transparent and robust.

“At Central Health, we fully support performance reviews,” Geeslin said. “That’s why it’s part of what we’ve done in the past. It’s an important part of how we set the strategy and work with the community in providing healthcare for those who need it the most.”

Ted Burton, vice president of communications at Central Health, said representatives from Dell Medical School will report on how they spend the funding from Central Health at a board of managers meeting tomorrow.

The court’s five members voted unanimously to approve an independent audit of the healthcare district. Commissioners Ann Howard and Margaret Gómez will form a subcommittee to determine more details about the audit. 

Young said the commissioners court decision was a step in the right direction.

“We’ve got details to work out on the audit in terms of exactly how it’s going to proceed in terms of internal details,” Young said. “But the good news is the concept’s there, the funding’s there. What we’ve got to do is … build it steadily.”