Baackes To Retire at End of Year

Baackes To Retire at End of Year
L.A. Care Chief Executive John Baackes expanded the insurance provider’s mission.

L.A. Care Health Plan announced earlier this month that Chief Executive John Baackes will retire at the end of this year after nine years at the helm.

L.A. Care also announced it had begun a search for his successor, retaining Rockford, Illinois-based search firm Furst Group.

Westlake-based L.A. Care Health Plan is a public insurer that serves more than 2.6 million members in Los Angeles County, making it the largest publicly operated health plan in the country. Its 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. 

During Baackes’ tenure, L.A. Care greatly expanded its membership base and physician networks. He also helped set up several new programs designed to elevate the region’s safety net and grow the pool of physicians in the county.

“I am proud of all that we have accomplished at L.A. Care during my time with this pioneering agency and am eager to watch it continue to grow and evolve to meet our community’s health needs,” Baackes said.

Since Baackes took the helm in 2015, L.A. Care’s membership base has grown to 2.6 million residents in Los Angeles County from 1.7 million.

The growth in physician networks under direct contract with L.A. Care has been more dramatic in that time. In 2015, the number of physician networks under direct contract stood at 33 practices with 59 physicians; today, L.A. Care has under contract 619 practices with 1,174 physicians.

The health insurer also added 10 community resource centers over the last decade, bringing the total to 14.

Among the physician training initiatives that Baackes established were a scholarship program for medical school students committed to practicing in underserved communities and a school loan-repayment program for physicians who establish their medical practice within disadvantaged communities.

On the provider recruitment program, L.A. Care has awarded $21 million to support 185 physician slots over the last five years. In terms of scholarships, L.A. Care has awarded another $21 million to support 48 scholars since 2018.

L.A. Care has also boosted health care efforts in the county in other ways. Earlier this month, for example, L.A. Care, with Baackes’ leadership, stepped in with a $2 million emergency grant to keep open the doors of Catalina Island’s only hospital through the end of the year; otherwise, the hospital faced closure this summer.

Baackes said he intends to work closely with the board in coming months to ensure a seamless leadership transition. As for plans after his retirement, he said he will be able to devote more time to his position as board chair of Willowbrook-based Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science; his two-year term as chair concludes at the end of next year.

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Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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