Video: Lawsuit could halt Central Health’s $35 million a year in transfers to UT Dell Medical School

HomeCentral HealthVideo: Lawsuit could halt Central Health’s $35 million a year in transfers...

Last Friday we published a lengthy story about the hearing conducted by District Judge Amy Clark Meacham. Her decision, based on the evidence presented in Birch v Central Health will determine whether the University of Texas at Austin, for Dell Medical School, will continue to receive $35 million a year from property taxes collected by Central Health to provide indigent healthcare services.

The hearing finally—more than six years after it was filed in October 2017—gave plaintiffs a day in court. During that time Central Health has transferred $210 million to UT. The total to date figure is $350 million. Another $35 million transfer is in Central Health’s budget for his calendar year. (Birch et al v. Central Health et al, Cause No. D-1-GN-17-005824)

Plaintiffs argued that because Dell Medical School has provided minimal, if any, healthcare services for Central Health patients earning less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, the transferred funds constitute an illegal gift of public funds. They requested an injunction to bar future fund transfers but did not ask for past payments to be recouped.

Defendants argued that Central Health is entitled to sovereign immunity and cannot be sued by the three property taxpayer plaintiffs. They also asserted that the agency’s spending is within its constitutional and legal authority. They asked the lawsuit be dismissed.

Judge Meacham has not yet announced a decision, although after the hearing she requested the opposing attorneys to submit proposed orders.

The Bulldog is publishing two videos based on footage taken during the hearing with the judge’s permission:

The one immediately below is a video story covering the key points of statements made by attorneys for defendant Central Health, the plaintiffs, and Judge Meacham. It runs about 10 and a half minutes.

The second video, linked below, contains the entire raw footage of the hearing taken by videographer Erik Mauck. It runs an hour and 35 minutes.

Judge Meacham granted permission for the Bulldog to capture video on condition that the raw footage be made available to other media organizations that request it. None have done so.

Parties to the litigation are by definition not media and are not entitled to it.

It should be noted that most news organizations would never publish raw footage. In fact most news organizations would consider the raw footage to be proprietary information and would never release it unless under a court order to do so.

But the Bulldog is most definitely not like other news organization. We believe in complete transparency about how we do our reporting. We have always published documents gathered in our reporting along with the stories, so that anyone can refer to the source documents, read them, and decide for themselves whether the story accurately reflects the facts in the documents, or whether the information might have been cherry-picked or taken out of context. 

The raw footage, in this case, serves the same purpose, to provide complete transparency about how we do the work of publishing credible journalism and building trust with our readers.

To view the raw footage, click here.

Erik Mauck

Trust indicators: This was Erik Mauck’s first assignment for the Bulldog. Editor Ken Martin has been doing investigative reporting in the three-county Austin metro area since 1981. See more on Ken on the About page. Email [email protected].

Ken Martin

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