Center honors health efforts; grant for residency program; St. Helena joint program noted

The Northern California Center for Well Being last week held its annual benefit, Celebration of Dreams, where Sonoma County health care professionals and officials were honored for their efforts in health and wellness.

The center, which focuses on preventive and wellness care, honored the following individuals and businesses: St. Francis Winery, as Healthy Business Leader; Kathie Myers, RN from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, as Health Care Leader; Dr. Ben Brown, director of family medicine at the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency program, as physician leader; Maria Fincher,of Univision, as community leader; County Supervisor Shirlee Zane as government leader; and Claudia Alcantra, a senior at Roseland University Prep.

The event also raised money for the non-profit center through both a silent and live auction.***

Partnership HealthPlan of California has been designated by the state as the Community Provider Plan for the Healthy Families program in Sonoma County, which Partnership says will enable it to offer those enrolled in the program lower premiums than other health plans.

The Fairfield-based, non-profit managed Medi-Cal provider also recently expanded its reach into Marin and Mendocino counties, giving it roughly 38,000 new members in six Northern California counties. In Sonoma County, the Healthy Families program has about 7,000 enrollees.

The state's Managed Medical Insurance Board each year names a Community Provider Plan in each county, based on which plan has the most extensive list of both traditional and safety-net providers in its network, according to Partnership, whose network includes Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Marin and Mendocino counties. Within those counties, its providers include most hospitals, federally qualified health centers, medical groups and even specialists.

Partnership pays physicians a higher reimbursement rate for its Medi-Cal patients than the state, which in turn expands the number of physicians willing to take on Medi-Cal patients, according to the health plan and county health officials.

"It's huge," said Rita Scardaci, director of Sonoma County Health and Human Services, when asked about the significance of the recent expansion. "The plan picks up a lot of processing, case management, pharmacies, lab work, that lifts some of those tasks from health care providers, as well as sets rates," she said. 

Partnership administers benefits for some 200,000 total members and its 2011-2012 budget is $910 million.***

The Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency program, the largest source of primary care physicians to Sonoma County, received a grant of $154,845 as part of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development's $2.6 million award to family practice residency training programs. The aim of the awards is to increase the number or primary care physicians throughout the state. The state, like the rest of the U.S., is facing an anticipated shortage of doctors, particularly in lieu of health care reform.

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