CenCal Health Names Marina Owen to Succeed Longtime CEO

CenCal Health, the publicly-funded health care program for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, announced today that Marina Owen will serve as its CEO, effective November 1. Owen succeeds Bob Freeman who is retiring after 28 years with CenCal Health.

As CEO of one of the first and oldest Medicaid-only managed care plans of its kind in the nation, Owen will be responsible for the overall strategic direction, management and administration of programs and services while ensuring that CenCal Health fulfills its mission, goals and objectives.

Marina Owen has more than 15 years of health plan management experience, most recently as Chief Operating Officer at Central California Alliance for Health, based in Scotts Valley. There, she was responsible for enterprise-wide operations and executive leadership of member services, claims, project management, provider services, grievance, process improvement and regional operations. As a CenCal Health alum, Owen previously served as its Director, Provider Services and Community Engagement from 2008 until 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Biological Sciences from UC Santa Barbara, and furthered her training at UC Berkeley through the Executive Leadership Program. Owen becomes just the fourth CEO in the organization’s 38-year history.

“I am honored to serve CenCal Health once again,” said Owen. “I look forward to partnering with our board, members, providers and community organizations to improve the health and wellness of our diverse communities and advance health equity in the future.”

Bob Freeman is credited with managing CenCal Health’s growth to a current membership of over 205,000, in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, in addition to 60,000 Affordable Care Act members. During his tenure, a specialized pediatric unit was created to support Medi-Cal members who are also eligible for California Children’s Services, special health services for children and teens who have chronic medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, cancer, and traumatic injuries. Freeman also initiated an annual donation of $200,000 each to two local non-profits for their senior nutrition programs serving low-income seniors in San Barbara and San Luis Obispo communities. Since 2016, the total contribution is over $2 million. Freeman led an organization that is listed at the top of Best Places to Work on the Central Coast in the Pacific Coast Business Times’ annual survey. CenCal Health ranked #1 in 2019 and 2021, and #2 in 2020. Freeman also served on the Board of Directors of Pacific Central Coast Health Centers (PHC), and CommUnify (formerly known as Community Action Commission or CAC).

“When someone retires from an organization they’re very proud of, the one thing they want most is for that organization to continue its good work moving forward,” said Freeman. “I leave CenCal Health in a few weeks knowing the types of things we accomplished under my tenure will continue under Marina Owen. I have known and worked with Marina for almost 20 years. I leave the organization I love in very good hands.”

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 205,000 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 its annual Community Report at

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Media Contact:

Sheri Mobley (805) 845-5627, 213 509-9816

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