KUT Highlights Palliative Care Project


AUSTIN, Texas – (July 21, 2015) – KUT, Central Texas’ National Public Radio station, featured a Ascension Seton DSRIP program as an example of how what’s known as 1115 Waiver funds can improve patient care and cover medical costs. The full radio story can heard on KUT’s website. Here is a brief excerpt:

We don’t often hear about the Medicaid 1115 waiver in Texas, but this waiver gives Texas billions of federal dollars to provide some pretty expensive care.

This waiver expires in 2016, though. Texas is in the process of asking the federal government to extend and renew the money, but that renewal isn’t guaranteed.

How does the waiver, and the money attached, help Texans?


Our explanation starts at Ascension Seton’s UMC Brackenridge hospital in Austin. Nurse practitioner Ana Marie Houser walks into a patient’s room. The lights are off, though some sun is shining in. Houser greets her patient, who has a life-threatening illness. Family members are in the room, including her patient’s mother.

“Do you have any concerns about all of the information that you’ve received?” Houser asks in Spanish. “I know that many doctors come in here, one after the other. Do you have any questions?”

Houser offers support, purposely sits down on a stool so she can see her patient at eye level. How’s the nausea?, Houser asks. Does everyone in the family know how serious her condition is? Do they need her help in reaching out to family?

“It really helps create a model of shared decision-making,” says Stephen Bekanich, a palliative medicine physician with Ascension Seton. Palliative care differs from hospice care, he says: His patients aren’t necessarily near the ends of their lives but are coping with side effects from illnesses or trauma that could last a while.

Bekanich and his team try to help them through means other than just medication. The team includes a social worker and a chaplain to allow for culture, spirituality and family history to play into the care.

“In palliative medicine we say, ‘Hey, as they journey from point A to B, we want them to feel as well as possible,'” Bekanich explains. “That’s the goal. I don’t know if they’re going to get to point B, C or D. But I know that I can help them, with our skill set, get there in a more dignified, comfortable manner.”