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Primary Care ‘Waiting for This Moment’

California primary care providers are gathering in Sacramento today for a conference focusing on the expanded role they play in the state’s reformed health system.

“The Affordable Care Act put us on the map in a central way at the national level,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and CEO of the California Primary Care Association, which is putting on the annual conference today in Sacramento. “Lawmakers have been supporting primary care as a public policy.”

It has been a long time coming, Castellano-Garcia said.

“This is the year of implementing health care reform,” she said. “It’s our 20th anniversary, the 20th year we’ve been meeting, and that was about the time when the federal health care reform effort under Clinton had failed. And for 20 years we’ve been pushing for it. We have been waiting for this moment.”

Castellano-Garcia said community health centers have led the way in payment reform efforts. “We have been moving away from a volume-driven care system to one that is value based,” she said. “We’ve also been looking at different emerging models of behavioral and oral health at the clinic level, and we’ve also looked at [changing] the local delivery care system and the statewide delivery of care.”

Workforce challenges and showcasing best practices in the rural setting are big topics for primary care providers, she said, “And of course, network adequacy,” Castellano-Garcia said, “or should I say, network inadequacy.”

Castellano-Garcia said CPCA will revive a bill next session — SB 1081 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) — which never made it out of Senate Appropriations last session.

The bill creates several demonstration pilot projects to develop payment reform models, she said. “Our timeline [in the bill] moved to 2016, anyway,” she said, “so whether it’s this year or next year doesn’t matter.”

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