Patients insured by Medi-Cal will have greater access to specialty care in Sacramento, thanks to a partnership between UC Davis Health and WellSpace Health, the area’s largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). It’s the latest in a series of efforts by UC Davis Health to provide high-quality care to people who most need it and can least afford it.

The new program, called Specialty Connect, embeds UC Davis Health providers into WellSpace Health’s Oak Park Community Health Center, where they’ll provide care to historically underserved populations.

The program launched in January 2023 with a UC Davis Health rheumatologist, and planning is underway to bring additional specialty services in high demand by Medi-Cal patients such as pulmonology, gastroenterology, and pediatric subspecialties.

“UC Davis Health is proud to be part of this vital partnership with WellSpace Health aimed at overcoming health equity obstacles for underserved patients,” said David Lubarsky, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.S.A., UC Davis Health CEO and vice chancellor of human health sciences. “We’ve listened to patients, and we’ve learned they’d rather access their health care conveniently, in locations closer to home.”

“Today we stand at the threshold of building the best specialty network ever offered to people covered by Medi-Cal in the Sacramento region,” added WellSpace Health CEO Jonathan Porteus, Ph.D., at a launch event in January. “When we align our mission with our partners, there is no limit to what we can do for those we serve.”

Concerted effort to improve access

Medi-Cal beneficiaries usually have many choices for primary care doctors throughout California, but struggle to find specialty care physicians due to low reimbursement rates.

UC Davis Health, however, has made a concerted effort in recent years to improve this access. About a third of all patients at UC Davis Health facilities are Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

In addition, the health system offers its specialists to Medi-Cal patients at the medical center campus and clinics around the community. It also assigns providers to work in several FQHCs where tens of thousands of Sacramento’s Medi-Cal patients already receive care closer to home or to public transit.

UC Davis Health providers at the county’s health center come from internal medicine, family and community medicine, pediatrics and behavioral health departments, and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. The School of Medicine also has training programs there for students and residents. Specialty care provided to Medi-Cal patients at the Sacramento County Primary Care Center includes women’s health, rheumatology, cardiology, nephrology, sports medicine, behavioral health, and developmental behavioral pediatrics.

Program serves seven FQHCs

The UC Davis Health and WellSpace Health partnership is supported by Sacramento’s Medi-Cal managed care health plans: Anthem Blue Cross, Molina Healthcare and Health Net; as well as participating Independent Physician Associations, including Nivano Physicians, Hill Physicians and Imperial Health. This means any Medi-Cal patient belonging to the plans, as well as patients of any of seven FQHCs, may be referred to Specialty Connect.

In addition to WellSpace, the other six centers are Elica Health, Health and Life Organization (HALO), One Community Health, Peach Tree Health, the Sacramento County Primary Care Clinic, and the Sacramento Native American Health Center.