The Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP) invited John Baackes, the CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan, to be its featured guest for its January Coffee Break podcast. Listeners learn that Baackes joined L.A. Care in March of 2015, his fifth health plan and the third as CEO. He explains that he was happy at his job at AmeriHealth Caritas in Philadelphia, but was intrigued by the opportunity to join a plan serving, at the time, one of every six residents in the largest county in the country. He felt L.A. Care could serve as a catalyst for change in health care and since arriving, he has led many projects that are doing just that.
Baackes discussed the health plan’s efforts to help house members experiencing homelessness and to provide medically tailored meals that help chronically ill members avoid repeat hospitalizations. The health plan was using reserve funding to provide these critically important services, but now, through California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM), the new transformation of the state’s Medicaid program, the cost of such services will be reimbursed by the state. Baackes has advocated for years for health plans to be more directly involved in delivering these social services, and now the state has moved in that direction.
Baackes explained how integrating social services with medical care would help advance health equity. He says the COVID-19 pandemic made it crystal clear that inequities in our society are a life and death matter. The pandemic exposed major health disparities, especially among poor people of color, many of whom are Medi-Cal members. Baackes is encouraged that the social service integration will lead to better health outcomes.
While much of the podcast delved into L.A. Care’s efforts to address social determinants of health, listeners also learned how Baackes ended up with a 45 year career in health care after graduating from college with a degree in fine arts. It turns out that developing a logo for an Albany, New York health plan led to a sales job at that health plan and 10 years later he became the plan’s CEO.
You can listen to the ACAP Coffee Break podcast here.
About L.A. Care Health Plan
L.A. Care Health Plan serves more than 2.4 million members in Los Angeles County, making it the largest publicly operated health plan in the country. L.A. Care offers four health coverage plans including Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Covered™, L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan and the PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Health Care Plan, all dedicated to being accountable and responsive to members. As a public entity, L.A. Care’s mission is to provide access to quality health care for L.A. County's low-income communities, and to support the safety net required to achieve that purpose. L.A. Care prioritizes quality, access and inclusion, elevating health care for all of L.A. County. For more information, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.