Many Molina Healthcare patients may need to find new doctors after insurer cancels contract

Thousands of patients who receive health care at Golden Shore Medical Group clinics in Long Beach, Wilmington and elsewhere may soon have to find new doctors as Molina Healthcare plans to cancel its contract with the company.

Dr. Mario Molina, who formerly led Molina Healthcare and whose father founded the company, started Golden Shore last year and took over operation of 17 of Molina Healthcare’s clinics—which serve about 80,000 patients across the state.

Molina said in a Facebook post this week that he is “deeply concerned”  for the welfare of those patients after Molina Healthcare informed him that it will not renew its contract with Golden Shore. The contract expires on Jan. 31.

“These are people who face some of the most dire health conditions in the state, in communities where timely access to quality healthcare and doctors are in short supply,” Molina wrote.

Laura Murray, spokeswoman for Molina Healthcare, said in a statement Thursday that “ensuring our members have access to reliable, high quality care is Molina Healthcare’s top priority.”

She said Golden Shore has sustained significant financial losses, citing a corrective action plan put in place last June by the Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates health plans in California. She also said Golden Shore demanded “an insupportable out-of-market rate increase.”

Molina said in a phone interview that Golden Shore is under a corrective plan for financial insolvency issues, but said it has met all of the conditions after he infused more cash into the company. He said he has invested upward of $25 million into the clinics.

Molina added that he has tried to negotiate a new contract, along with requesting an extension of the current contract, to no avail. He said he has also turned to legislators and regulators hoping for guidance.

Molina Healthcare “flatly told us they will not continue the contract under any circumstances,” he said. “They refuse to even meet with us; we never sat down to negotiate.”

Golden Shore’s clinics serve about 2,000 patients in Wilmington, and about 5,200 patients at its Long Beach locations in Central and North Long Beach.

The clinics run by Golden Shore are in a federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Area, meaning there are fewer doctors to care for the number of people in a given area.

The patients who receive care at Golden Shore are also some of the sickest and most in need, Molina said Thursday. According to state figures, 94 percent of the clinics’ patients are insured by Molina Healthcare through Medi-Cal, an insurance program for those who are disabled, low-income or children living in foster care.

Mario Molina formerly served as CEO of the insurance company, but in May 2017, the Molina Healthcare Board of Directors fired Molina and his brother, John Molina, citing the company’s financial performance. (John Molina is a partner in Pacific6, which is the parent company of the Long Beach Post.)

Soon after he was fired, Mario Molina began negotiations to take over operation of some of the company’s clinics; his late father, David Molina, founded Molina Healthcare in 1980 as a clinic operation, and Molina said he wanted that to continue.

“Some of these patients we’ve been seeing for generations,” he said.

Molina said Golden Shore is evaluating the future of the clinics, but in the meantime is trying to get the word out to patients that if they want to continue service at Golden Shore clinics, they will need to change insurance companies.

Molina Healthcare said it will be transitioning its patients to other providers effective Feb. 1. Murray said in the statement that the company is in close contact with state agencies “to ensure a smooth transition.”

Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for the Department of Managed Health Care, said in an email that the agency has yet to approve Molina Healthcare’s request to transfer the patients who now are seen at Golden Shore clinics. The content of the letter that would be sent to enrollees is also still under review, she said.

Patients must be given at least 30 days notice ahead of the change.

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.