CenCal Health Addresses Gaps in Care with over $2 Million in Funding for Physician Recruitment, Medical Equipment

New Program to Improve Access to Health Care for Children, Seniors and the Disabled

In response to noted gaps in access to health care locally, CenCal Health, the publicly-sponsored health plan for Medi-Cal in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, is implementing a Network Access Improvement program. The program will focus on increasing primary and specialty care capacity for local Medi-Cal members, as well as improving access to care for children and disabled members. These priorities will be accomplished in two ways – by recruiting new medical professionals to the network, and by funding specialized medical equipment such as vaccine refrigerators and exam room apparatus that accommodates the needs of mobility-impaired patients.

Due to membership growth outpacing local resources, CenCal Health has committed $2 million to the recruitment of new medical practitioners to its network on the Central Coast. This funding will provide financial incentives to current network providers, including covering recruitment costs and salaries for new providers.

“The Access Improvement program is an effort to help ensure that the Central Coast will be able to address both the shortage of certain medical specialists locally; as well as to generally assist in attracting new providers to the area,” said Bob Freeman, CenCal Health CEO. “In the next few years, we will experience a wave of retiring physicians. Hopefully, the program will proactively address this future physician shortage – and also attract new specialists to the area that are currently not here.”

CenCal Health has additional dollars for providers – up to $5,000 per location – to fund medical equipment that will improve access to health care for children, seniors and disabled patients. The health plan has especially seen gaps in care related to patients’ mobility.

“We have learned that a majority of wheel-chair bound women do not get their annual cervical cancer screening because they cannot transfer from their chair to the exam table,” said Terri Howell, Director of Provider Services at CenCal Health. “These women are at the same risk of getting cervical cancer as the rest of the general population of women in the same age range, but they don’t get the exams. This program will address that with funding for power adjustable, hi-low treatment tables in the provider’s office.” Other equipment that could be funded to retrofit a medical exam room: exam table overhead trapeze bars for patient mobility, and weight scales for the wheelchair bound.

There is also funding assistance for providers who participate in the Child Health and Disability Prevention program for the purchase of Vaccines for Children-compliant refrigerators. These purpose-built refrigerated storage units maintain proper temperatures to protect the viability of infant and childhood vaccines.

“As physicians, it is important that we work with the health plan to identify challenges faced by our Medi-Cal members and identify potential strategies for better managed care,” said Dr. René Bravo of Bravo Pediatrics in San Luis Obispo. “A program like this, which expands the provider network and provides funds for medical equipment, means a greater chance that patients will receive proper care at every appointment.”

CenCal Health’s Network Access Improvement program begins January 2021. 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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