L.A. Care, California Blue launch joint community resource centers

L.A. Care Health Plan and Blue Shield of California are opening a series of community centers. (kitzcorner/Shutterstock)

L.A. Care Health Plan and Blue Shield of California have teamed up to open a series of community resource centers across Los Angeles County. 

The pair of payers opened the first center earlier this month. The 12,000-square-foot facility offers health education programs, cooking and fitness classes and wellness counseling, and will also assist visitors in connecting with other assistance programs, such as CalFresh, the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

John Baackes, CEO of L.A. Care, told FierceHealthcare that the public insurer has opened a total of seven resource centers so far, with the first opening its doors more than a decade ago. However, working with California Blue allows those existing centers to grow and offer additional services, and will lead to a total of 14 operating in the county. 

“We want to be more than a plastic card in someone’s wallet, and this is a tangible way to do that,” he said. 

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Expanding the centers and launching the new ones will cost about $146 million. The facilities are open to the public, but certain services will only be available to L.A. Care or Blues plan members. 

Greg Buchert, M.D., CEO of Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan, the insurer’s managed care organization, told FierceHealthcare that the county is extremely diverse both ethnically and geographically, so having a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work to meet members’ needs. 

So, these centers, which are embedded in the community and slightly tweaked to best fit the neighborhoods they’re in, offer a significant opportunity for better care management and to address social issues that are impacting health, he said. 

“It’s not just us educating our members but it’s our members educating us,” Buchert said. “How can we be more sensitive, more culturally aware and just learn some of the things that are important to them and what’s going on in the community?” 

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Making members more aware of the centers and the services they offer is the next step. Buchert said that California Blue’s call center staff will be trained, for example, to recognize zip codes from callers and point those eligible to the centers. 

He said the health plans can’t take an “if you build it, they will come” mentality and must instead demonstrate clear value to members to ensure they come back.  

Baackes said the existing centers get decent foot traffic, but the number of visitors represents under 10% of the plan’s 2.2 million Los Angeles County members. So L.A. Care is working with its network providers to help get the word out. 

“We’re hoping that by broadening the services available to everyone and then offering member-specific services, they’ll avail themselves more of the center services that are important to them,” Baackes said.