2020: Year of Resilience and Growth for CenCal Health

New report outlines local impact of pandemic on health plan members, providers and employees

CenCal Health, the largest health plan on the Central Coast, produces a community report every year, but the 2020 digital report looks and reads like no other. COVID-19 brought unimagined challenges to the health plan’s members, providers, employees, and the community at-large. The just-published yearly overview presents updated facts and figures on membership and patient care, as well as highlighting innovative health programs and initiatives that responded to the public health emergency. Through video and still photography, the report also paints a picture of quickly emptied offices that gave rise to make-shift desks and video meetings at the homes of CenCal Health employees. Though the workplace changed, the work continued for the Medi-Cal health plan that contributes approximately $50 million a month to the local economy. CenCal Health had no wholesale layoffs, and very few furloughs were necessary among its 263 employees.

“The 2020 Community Report reflects a key component of CenCal Health’s resiliency- maintaining responsive relationships with the people we serve,” said Bob Freeman, CenCal Health CEO. “Each section of the report highlights our commitment to members, providers, and the community. For example, we included statistics on our members’ telemedicine visits, PPE donations to providers, and COVID-care items distributed both in and out of our network, including individuals experiencing homelessness.”

In 2020, CenCal Health:

 – Membership grew by 22,046 individuals to a total membership of 193,732, combining both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Local members covered through the Affordable Care Act totaled 54, 813.

 – Providers conducted 75,961 telemedicine visits with Medi-Cal enrolled-members in the two counties served.

 –  Procured more than $300,00 worth of pulse oximeters and PPE –100,000 gloves, 100,000 masks and 20,000 gowns – for its provider partners during the first few months of the pandemic. The health plan also distributed 2,000 oximeters, 2,500 hand sanitizers and 1,180 antiseptic wipe packets for local individuals in need.

By April, child vaccination rates in the region had plummeted, along with significant drops in cancer screenings, check-ups and other preventive care. CenCal Health launched a campaign called “Welcome Back to Care,” a series of English and Spanish public service announcements and TV commercials that addressed the community’s fears, supported local physicians, and let those who had lost jobs – along with their health insurance – know that there was a health plan option for them. This was one of several pivots by the organization to communicate effectively with its membership and providers during the 2020 public health crisis.

COVID-19 had a significant adverse impact on health care finances, both locally and at the state level in 2020. At the state level, California’s budget went from a projected multi-billion-dollar surplus to a $55 billion deficit. This triggered 1.5% revenue reductions for Medi-Cal managed care plans, including CenCal Health – retroactive to July 2019. Furthermore, the state plans to implement additional revenue reductions to Medi-Cal plans in the 2020/2021 fiscal year.

With strong financial reserves, CenCal Health absorbed these reductions without negatively affecting provider reimbursement levels. The health plan also gives credit to its provider partners who worked with the agency as it navigated through this year of revenue reductions. 

“Throughout our organization’s 37 years, we’ve always focused on evolving to meet challenges,” said Freeman. “Our resiliency was tested this year like no other.”

The CenCal Health 2020 Community Report can be viewed at cencal2020.org. Additional information on CenCal Health is available at cencalhealth.org.

About CenCal Health

CenCal Health is a community-accountable health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals and other providers in delivering patient care to more than 195,000 members – about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County. A public agency, the health plan contributes approximately $50 million a month into the local economy, primarily through payments to healthcare providers who serve its membership. Established in 1983, it is the oldest managed care Medicaid plan of its kind in the nation. View our annual Community Report at cencal2020.org

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Media Contact: Sheri Mobley (805) 845-5627, 213 509-9816 sheri@seamlesspr.com

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