SCAN Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicare Advantage provider, is commemorating 40 years of activity in Long Beach after its founding by a group of local seniors who had had it with the kinds of services they were getting from other providers.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” SCAN Chief Executive Chris Wing said. “They were unhappy, not with their health care, per se, but with social services.”
SCAN traces its founding to the efforts of those seniors’ to improve services in 1977. The organization did not function as a health plan in its earliest form. Initially, as the Long Beach Area Geriatric Health Care Council, its founding purpose was to provide case work to seniors seeking aid.
The organization also used the name SCAN, or Senior Care Action Network, in its early days and claims May 1978 as the first time when the organization’s service coordination efforts were available for an entire month.
SCAN entered the health plan business in the mid-1980s after evolving into a social health maintenance organization.
By 1990, about 2,500 seniors living in the Long Beach area obtained Medicare plans through membership in the local organization. SCAN had some 37,000 members in 2000 and now counts 186,000 members. Several plan members who have achieved the age of 100 are depicted in portraits that decorate the walls of the nonprofit’s Kilroy Airport Way headquarters.
Besides its management of health plans, the current version of SCAN also collaborates with university researchers and others to publish studies that Wing said he is hopeful will improve geriatric care from coast to coast.
“Every pilot we do, we want to have an academic medical center verify our outcome,” Wing said.
This decade’s leadership changes
Wing has held his job with the nonprofit since 2011. He came to the Long Beach nonprofit from HealthCare Partners, a for-profit insurer headquartered in El Segundo.
His arrival came in the midst of a difficult time for SCAN. The year after he was hired, the nonprofit reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice requiring payment of more than $320 million to resolve claims the company accepted overpayments for Medi-Cal and Medicare patients. The settlements followed a multi-agency investigation that revealed actuarial errors the government blamed for Medi-Cal overpayments being made during a time that spanned from 1985 to 2008. A whistleblower also filed a case in 2009 that alleged SCAN undertook actions that led to Medicare overpayments.
SCAN’s leadership went through an overhaul of its senior managers shortly after Wing arrived. The new faces included those of president Bill Roth and chief administrative officer Nancy Monk. Roth is an executive qualified to be SCAN’s next CEO, and Monk is the leader who rebuilt the nonprofit’s compliance program, Wing said
“We brought in some good people. They brought in some good people,” he said.
SCAN announced this past May that research, still in progress, assessed the effectiveness of a program intended to provide at-home mental health care to seniors.
“Our goal is to overcome barriers to getting mental health treatment,” said Dr. Soo Borson, one of the researchers and a former professor at University of Washington School of Medicine.
Researchers worked with patients involved with SCAN’s Independence at Home program to examine a program that involved sending licensed social workers or therapists to provide in-home care to patients living with persistent, mild- to moderate-depression. Seniors and relatives providing unpaid care to seniors could both receive therapies free of charge.
The cost of care is one of the barriers Borson said researchers want to eliminate. Language barriers and some seniors’ lack of access to personal transportation are others.
Preliminary assessments for the roughly 90 patients who completed the first phase of treatment showed an amelioration of depression and anxiety levels, according to SCAN’s reported results.
Borson expressed optimism other insurers willing to foot the bills for at-home mental health care may also see positive results and “make this a viable way of giving back.”