Date: Jan 08, 2014
Magazine:
January 2014: New Seed Variety Issue

When Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT) and Pinnacle Claims Management (PCMI) opened the Cedar Health and Wellness Center in Salinas in 2010, it took a while for the concept and practice to catch on.  But catch-on it did. Today, about 900 patients visit the clinic every year where a nurse practitioner sees to their ailments and can dispense medicines right then-and-there so patients do not have to also go to a pharmacy.  The cost of an office visit is $5 as are most generic medications.  Now, with the Affordable Care Act and many changes taking place with the nation’s healthcare system, clinics and wellness centers are filling a need for employers and employees both.  That’s good news.  And so is the news that WGAT opened a second health center in Santa Maria last month.

“Your employees, from field workers to office and management staff, will have direct and easy access to a primary care health clinic in Santa Maria,” says Patty Benkowski, vice president of operations for WGAT.  “When you make an appointment or just walk-in, we will make sure all of your medical needs are taken care of.  We treat ailments and also help every patient stay well and healthy.”

The Santa Maria Cedar Health and Wellness Center is part of the Western Growers and Pinnacle Claims Management Inc. Exclusive Provider Organization plan or EPO.  Consequently only policy holders of WGAT and PCMI Cedar EPO plan can utilize this center.  Under the direction of a medical director (a licensed M.D.), a nurse practitioner and/or physician’s assistant staffs the facility which is open for 40 hours a week.  It is open for a few hours on Saturdays, and also until 6:00 p.m. on one or two nights each week.  Wellness Center staff are able to prescribe and dispense prescriptions, handle minor medical procedures and direct patients to specialists or a hospital if necessary.

WGAT will be establishing a network of clinics that it will operate independently or in some cases, will be affiliated with health facility partners in California and Arizona.  This is being done in response to the requirement of the new Affordable Care Act which makes portions of the WGAT Mini-Med plans non-compliant after July 1, 2014. After careful analysis of the new law, WGAT has built a new clinic-based model which will replace the Mini-Med plans with an emphasis on an aggressive wellness program.  This new model will allow employers to purchase a plan that is comparable in cost to paying the penalty under the Affordable Care Act when health insurance is not provided.

“We’ve found a great location in Santa Maria for the new Cedar Health and Wellness Center,” says Benkowski, “in a medical plaza on South Miller Street.  It is convenient and cost-effective for any WGAT policy holder including members of the management staff.  WGAT is in the business of providing appropriate access to healthcare in every way and within the budgets of employers and employees.” 

The cost to employers ranges from about $2500 to $3500 annually per employee, which is not much more that the traditional Mini-Med plans. The clinics provide convenient and cost-effective medical treatment.  It’s a win-win for employees and employers alike.

The Santa Maria Cedar Health and Wellness Center is located at 1414 South Miller Street in Santa Maria, CA.

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