Governor Newsom Appoints Bradley Gilbert to Lead Medi-Cal

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Bradley Gilbert

Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed Bradley Gilbert, MD, MPP, to be the next director of the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), which delivers medical and behavioral care to more than 13 million Californians in Medi-Cal, the nation’s largest state Medicaid program.Essential Coverage

Until retiring last summer, Gilbert was CEO of Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP), a large nonprofit Medicaid and Medicare health plan headquartered in Rancho Cucamonga. Under his leadership, IEHP’s membership increased more than threefold, from 365,000 to over 1.2 million. During 23 years with IEHP, Gilbert also served as medical director and chief medical officer.

Gilbert will replace Richard Figueroa Jr., who has been acting director of DHCS since Jennifer Kent resigned from the post last fall. DHCS administers the state’s $104 billion Medi-Cal program and is the largest health care purchaser in California.

“Yes, it’s a big job, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to change the dynamic and process of caring for people with complex issues and barriers,” Gilbert told Politico Pro’s Angela Hart (subscription required).

Gilbert’s appointment comes as the Newsom administration embarks on a multiyear initiative to transform the Medi-Cal program. Called Medi-Cal Healthier California for All, this effort builds on previous pilot programs to coordinate physical health, behavioral health, and social services for Medi-Cal members.

Jarrod B. McNaughton, who succeeded Gilbert as CEO of IEHP, said in a statement on January 30, “Dr. Gilbert is well positioned to step in quickly and drive momentum behind [DHCS’s] efforts and initiatives to improve the quality and outcomes of care for its enrollees.”

Integration, Complex Care

Gilbert brings deep expertise in care coordination to his new job. At IEHP, his work “evolved from focusing on health needs of IEHP members to highlighting population-based strategy that addresses social determinants of health, including housing, food, and many other social support services,” according to an IEHP press release from February 2019.

“Many people we serve face many complicated issues, including with their health, housing, transportation, and other challenges, so making sure they are part of the planning and then delivering care to them where they are is critical,” Gilbert told Patricia Corrigan in a 2018 interview for Next Avenue.

Under his leadership, IEHP launched the Behavioral Health Integration and Complex Care Initiative, which “strives to improve members’ health outcomes by coordinating complex physical and behavioral needs across multiple providers and health care systems in the region.” (Watch Gilbert share a story at a CHCF briefing about the consequences for one patient with a history of mental illness when the system failed to coordinate his care.)

An evaluation published in Health Affairs found that the Behavioral Health Integration and Complex Care Initiative improved multiple clinical outcomes, including measures for depression and systolic blood pressure, and decreased inpatient costs at some sites.

In 2018, IEHP committed $10 million to a housing initiative (PDF) with permanent supportive housing for IEHP members. The project set a two-year goal of providing housing and wraparound case management services to 350 homeless members.

Gilbert also oversaw IEHP’s investment in technology solutions, including Connect IE, a search engine for free or reduced-cost medical care and food, and the Multi-County eConsult Initiative, one of the nation’s largest deployments of virtual care technology and care coordination.

Gilbert previously served as director of public health at the Riverside County Department of Public Health and the San Mateo County Division of Public Health. He is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and earned a master’s degree in public policy from UC Berkeley.

A Warm Reception

Health organizations statewide applauded Gilbert’s appointment. California Medical Association President Peter Bretan, MD, said in a statement, “Because of his experience leading a local Medi-Cal plan, as a county public health director and as a practicing physician, Dr. Gilbert is uniquely qualified for this role, and we are excited to see the ways in which he can help expand access to care for the millions of Californians across the state who receive their care through Medi-Cal.”

Brianna Lierman, CEO of Local Health Plans of California, said in a statement, “Governor Newsom has laid out a bold vision for health care with Medi-Cal at the forefront of this transformation. Brad Gilbert is one of the very few people qualified to lead our health care safety net into the future.”

Anthony Wright, executive director of the influential consumer organization Health Access California, said in a tweet, “Brad will bring his smarts and savvy to serving the 13 million Californians who depend on Medi-Cal coverage.”

Gilbert has been a member of CHCF’s board of directors since 2014. He will step down from that role when he joins DHCS.

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