Health & Medicine

WellSpace Health will buy 3 clinics, gain 19,000 patients in Sacramento

In this photo taken Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, Dr. Leonid Basovich  examines Medi-Cal patient Michael Epps, at the WellSpace Health clinic in Sacramento.
In this photo taken Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, Dr. Leonid Basovich examines Medi-Cal patient Michael Epps, at the WellSpace Health clinic in Sacramento. AP

WellSpace Health is working to acquire three medical clinics in Sacramento County from Golden Shore Medical Group, according to leaders of the two companies, in an effort to assure uninterrupted care for 19,000 local residents and employment security for 77 health-care workers.

Golden Shore has been locked in a contract dispute over pricing with managed-care insurer Molina Healthcare, said Golden Shore owner and CEO Dr. J. Mario Molina, and the insurer had filed paperwork with the California Department of Managed Health Care that sought to transfer all of Golden Shore’s patients to other providers in its network on Jan. 31.

If the planned purchase receives regulatory approval, it would prevent patient upheaval, said Molina, adding that his company has agreed to continue running the clinics until the deal receives regulatory approval. Statewide, South Pasadena-based Golden Shore serves roughly 80,000 people, the vast majority of whom get health care through Medi-Cal, Molina said, and it is negotiating with AltaMed Health Services to acquire its Southern California clinics.

“I don’t want to see the clinics closed,” he said. “They could be run effectively under new management and continue to serve a very vulnerable population....To me, dispersing these patients to doctors they have never seen and that the patients didn’t choose, versus keeping them with their current doctor, it’s a no-brainer.”

A spokesperson for Long Beach-based Molina Healthcare did not respond to requests for comment.

Jonathan Porteus, WellSpace’s chief executive officer, said: “If I were a patient at one of these clinics, I would want to know I could keep going there and see my provider and not have a break in that. Essentially, we fashioned together a transitions strategy that would allow us to assume operation of the three clinics, make them part of our network of community health centers.”

WellSpace and AltaMed already have contracts with Molina Healthcare, Mario Molina said, so that should make a transition seamless. Molina said he would not make money on the sales. Rather, he said, the two organizations will essentially assume leases, take over as employer of the current staff and pay Golden Shore for its equipment and furniture. WellSpace is acquiring the Golden Shore clinics at 7777 Sunrise Blvd. in Citrus Heights, 7215 55th St. in south Sacramento and 3946 Norwood Ave. in north Sacramento.

Molina said he formed Golden Shore in 2011 as a unit of Molina Healthcare, a company that he led from 1996 until May 2017 and that his late father, Dr. C. David Molina, founded in 1980.

Then Molina Healthcare decided to quit operating all but one of its clinics in 2017, and Molina exercised his contractual right to purchase Golden Shore’s California clinics. The company has struggled to gain its financial footing since Molina took over in January 2018, according to records at the Department of Managed Health Care, where regulators said it wasn’t complying with solvency criteria and put it on a corrective action plan.

Mario Molina said that Molina Healthcare, then Molina Medical, opened its first clinic in Sacramento in 1992, providing primary-care, health screenings and disease management in “medical deserts” where there often were not other providers offering the same services. Porteus said that WellSpace has been expanding and filling gaps in the region’s safety net, choosing locations that put clinics close enough to Molina and other Medi-Cal providers that they could be partners but not competitors.

“We sometimes talk about ourselves as co-dependent organizations,” Porteus said. “The goal really is how we take care of this group of people who historically have not been taken care of, who historically have been treated as pawns on a chess board. How do we actually take into account their needs and make the transition comfortable and easy for them?”

As a federally qualified health center, WellSpace Health receives a higher rate of reimbursement for serving patients. In addition to serving Medi-Cal enrollees, the 700 employees of Sacramento-based WellSpace also serve uninsured patients at their 18 full-time health centers. In addition to offering the same services as Golden Shore, WellSpace also offers dental care for children and adolescents, outpatient behavioral health services and pregnancy specialists. It has operated in the Sacramento region since 1953.

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