5 Things California: Med-Cal draft RFP, Convening Panel, Pharmacy deserts

Every bright summer day seems like one more day we are closer to having the pandemic behind us. Yet, I’m getting this feeling that the post-COVID economy is going to be too fast and too furious for my liking. The WSJ says “The economic recovery is here. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” The case they make isn’t good.

In this time where the centrifugal forces of the American economy will make everything we do in health care a little harder, it means cross-silo collaboration will be even more important. It means leaning into authentic relationships, as professionals and as organizations, will be even more important. And, that the work you’re doing to improve the health of our communities will be even more important.

That’s the work we’re all here for. Thanks for letting us play this small role to help you.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. DHCS releases draft Medi-Cal RFP

On Tuesday, DHCS released its draft RFP for the state’s re-procurement of Medi-Cal Managed Care Plans. Among the many goals of the procurement, according to the draft RFP, is a focus on behavioral health, health disparities, and emergency preparedness. The goals of the CalAIM initiative are also interwoven into the draft RFP, with interested firms expected to provide details on their experience and current investments in population health management, enhanced care management services, and in-lieu-of-services.

The department is hosting a public webinar on June 10 to present the draft, with feedback and voluntary non-binding letters of intent due by July 1. The draft RFP cover letter says the final RFP is expected to be released at the end of 2021. Proposals will be due about 2 months after the final RFP is released and “notices of intent to award” are expected to be posted about 4 months after the proposal due date.


2. Convening panel meets next week

We host the 2021 Los Angeles State of Reform Health Policy Conference this year on September 23rd. It’ll be a hybrid event, with an in-person option and an integrated virtual experience, so folks can choose how best to participate based on their comfort level. Next week, however, we kick off our Convening Panel process, which gathers input from some of California’s most thoughtful health care and health policy leaders. Their input helps us shape the Topical Agenda and identify some of the speakers we’ll want to have ready for you in September.

So, if you have any topics, speakers, or content ideas, we would love to hear them. I’ll incorporate the feedback into the Convening Panel meeting and our team’s discussions as we build this year’s agenda. And, if you already know you want to be with us on September 23rd, be sure to register and take advantage of the early bird rates!

3. Pharmacy deserts more common in Black, Latino neighborhoods

One-third of Black and Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles are considered pharmacy deserts – or areas with low geographic access to pharmacies. This data is part of a recently-released Health Affairs study which examines disparities in pharmacy access based on race/ethnicity. When comparing low-income neighborhoods in LA, 38.6% of Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods were considered pharmacy deserts compared to 11.1% of white neighborhoods.

The report also notes that pharmacies are more likely to close in Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods, with San Jose experiencing a 37.5% pharmacy closure rate in these neighborhoods compared to just a 2.5% closure rate in white neighborhoods. An interactive map detailing pharmacy deserts in LA neighborhoods is available here.


4. Q&A: California Black Health Network

Rhonda Smith is the executive director of the California Black Health Network (CBHN) – an organization that conducts outreach, education, and advocacy aimed at achieving health equity for Black Californians. In this Q&A, Smith discusses building trust, fostering cultural humility, and CBHN’s efforts to reduce disparities.

She also highlights the recent attention paid to system level reform to address disparities. “There hasn’t been as much emphasis or investment or policies around changing the system of care to really break down those barriers and eliminate the racial and implicit bias that people experience when they go to seek care. And I think it’s important to really focus on that piece of the equation if we’re really going to see an improvement or change in outcomes.” Her full comments are available here.


5. People on the move

Local Health Plans of California recently announced Linnea Koopmans as the association’s new Chief Executive Officer. Koopmans has served as interim CEO since February. LHPC Board Chair Liz Gibboney says Koopmans “has deep Medi-Cal policy experience, is an excellent communicator, and is firmly committed to the local plan model. We know that she will lead the association through the extraordinary opportunities offered through the CalAIM waiver process.”

The California Association of Health Plans announced Ashley Kirk will take over as Director of State Medicaid Policy. Before joining CAHP, Kirk was a senior consultant at Sellers Dorsey where she focused on Medicaid financing, program administration and quality improvement strategies for mental health plans, county health agencies, health systems, and safety net hospitals.