Healthcare That Works Remotely: New Member Services at CenCal Health

Shelter-in-Place Requirement Drives Home-Delivery Options During COVID-19

SANTA BARBARA, Calif –April 15, 2020– CenCal Health, the publicly-sponsored health plan for Medi-Cal in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, is offering alternatives for healthcare access in order to support its members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The community-based health care organization is one of 55 Safety Net Health Plans across the country that have pledged to provide necessary treatment at no cost to its members and to reduce other impediments to care. CenCal Health has worked with its network physicians and other providers to ensure members have medication and medical consultations available from the safety of their homes. These added services allow members to have their healthcare needs fulfilled while maintaining physical distance. CenCal Health’s objective is to continue its commitment to member health and safety even during this unprecedented and challenging event. CenCal Health has more than 175,000 members on the Central Coast – about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County.

As pharmacies modify service hours and limit in-person customer contact, CenCal Health provides members with a new avenue for obtaining prescribed medications. The health plan recently established a partnership with the pharmacy provider SortPak Rx for home-delivery of prescribed medication. The service is free to members and includes automatic refills. SortPak Rx pharmacists are also available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, CenCal Health is encouraging social distancing efforts by allowing members to receive an extra 90-day supply of most non-narcotic prescribed medications, with limited exceptions requiring prior approval. It is not necessary to change pharmacies in order to obtain the additional supply. The health plan also maintains a list of local pharmacies that deliver at www.cencalhealth.org/coronavirus.

“We want to emphasize that by not practicing social distancing and sheltering in place, people are endangering themselves and those they live with, especially seniors and residents with compromising health conditions,” said CenCal Health CEO Bob Freeman. 

Due to an abundance of caution, many healthcare providers may be asking patients to postpone or cancel preventive care check-ups. For those that still need to speak with a medical expert, there is an option available – telehealth. This service allows patients and providers to keep consultations by using telecommunication technology such as phone or video. Many of CenCal Health’s primary care providers have already added telemedicine visits appropriate to their own practices. Some of these include Santa Barbara Neighborhood ClinicsCommunity Health Centers of the Central Coastthe Children’s Medical ClinicPacific Central Coast Health CentersFCPP Family Health, and individual physicians including Dr. Himat TankDr. Peter Krause, and Dr. Eric Levy. In addition, the health plan reports that many of its network’s mental health providers have already adopted telehealth.

“Many of our physicians have started or expanded telemedicine programs so that you can see your doctor through a live video visit,” said CenCal Health Chief Medical Officer Farid Hassanpour. “Other physicians have made special arrangements so that children ages 24 months and younger can get their important vaccinations on schedule, without fear of sitting in a waiting room with sick patients.”

Reliable information is available to all CenCal Health members by phone through the Nurse-Advice Line. Members can consult – free of charge – with a nurse any day of the year, 24/7, which is especially helpful when needs occur after normal business hours or on weekends. Nurses can provide guidance in regards to symptoms, medications, testing, and whether the caller should seek urgent or emergency care. To reach the Nurse-Advice Line, members can dial 1(800) 524-5222.

CenCal Health’s response to the novel coronavirus includes a new webpage containing member-focused questions and answers. Anyone from the general public can access this information, which is available in English and Spanish at cencalhealth.org/coronavirus. The content includes guidance related to COVID-19 concerns such as who is at greatest risk for serious illness, how to best protect one’s self, who to call should a member have symptoms, links to updated information from reliable sources and more.

For member questions, CenCal Health representatives are available Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 1-877-814-1861. Hearing-impaired members may contact the CA Relay at 711 or the CenCal Health TTY at 1-833-556-2560. The call is toll-free.

There are multiple ways to apply for Medi-Cal coverage including online at www.mybenefitscalwin.org, and through www.CoveredCA.com. CenCal Health’s website offers additional information at www.cencalhealth.org/explore-cencal-health/am-i-eligible/  CenCal Health does not determine Medi-Cal eligibility or termination of benefits; this is directed by the applicant’s local Department of Social Services.

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 175,000 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. cencalhealth.org

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