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Central Health Says Sendero Is Relatively Healthy, But Its Survival Is Still Uncertain

Gabriel C. Pérez
Clients and advocates of Sendero Health Plans hold a news conference in support of the nonprofit health insurer Sept. 18

As the June deadline draws closer for Sendero Health Plans to prove its worth in the insurance market, Central Health officials gathered Monday night to update the community about the nonprofit health insurance company.

According to Sendero and Central Health's board of managers, the company is doing well so far – sort of.

“At this point there’s nothing we can say definitively, other than anecdotally we’re very happy that we’ve been able to provide quality care,” said Wesley Durkalski, Sendero's president and CEO.

Over the past eight years, Sendero Health Plans has provided about $475 million in coverage to more than 135,000 low-income residents in the area.

Sendero was on the verge of being phased out last year after years of funding issues. After a public outcry, it was saved in September when Central Health's board of managers voted to invest an additional $26 million into the health insurance plan.

As part of the agreement to keep it functioning, the board required Sendero’s staff to send monthly progress reports. Medical Access Program (MAP) members who were chronically ill were also given the option to switch to Sendero, which allowed the insurer to get more funding under the Affordable Care Act.

Durkalski said Sendero has transferred and enrolled 223 MAP recipients since last fall. He said income goals and overall enrollment is in line with projections.

Central Health CEO Mike Geeslin said the board is still waiting to hear about ACA data from the federal government, but the board wanted to hold a community meeting to "be transparent and tell [residents] what we know.”

Central Health officials said if the ACA – also known as Obamacare – is repealed, Sendero would cease to exist, but the organization would connect recipients with other affordable insurance options. 

“Central Health is here and dedicated to our residents,” Michelle Tijerina, director of Central Health’s Insurance Enrollment and Training, said.

The Central Health board will vote in June on whether to keep the insurance company going.

DaLyah Jones is a former assistant producer for All Things Considered and evening host. She is also co-host of the Two & Fro podcast.
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