(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) In June of 1984, a young doctor and his wife, a nurse, opened a family medical practice called LaSalle Medical Associates in Fontana. Their goal: provide affordable health care, with dignity and respect, to all in the Inland Empire.
Three decades later, Dr. Albert and Maria Arteaga have gone far beyond making their goal a reality. They are now recognized as one of the leading health care providers in the Inland Empire, if not all of California.
“We have had some markers of success,” Dr. Arteaga says. “We went from two employees – my wife and I – to a fully staffed clinic. We opened more clinics. Then we started our own IPA (independent practice association) to keep up with new demands to make health care more and more efficient.”
“It has always been our goal to treat as many patients as we could while giving them the best health care possible,” he said.
Some, who have recognized LaSalle Medical Associates as a leader in health care, by giving them awards for their endeavors, include:
Despite all this success, it hasn’t always been an easy path for the Arteagas.
“Life doesn’t always play out as you expect,” Dr. Arteaga said. “That is certainly true in my life as a health care provider. Good intentions require good management. Providing good management has been every bit as challenging as my years in medical school were more than three decades ago!”
One of the biggest changes in health care took place just this year. In 2014, Covered California part of the federal Affordable Health Care Act – which Dr. Arteaga has long been a champion of – came into being.
“Although Covered California does not yet mean everyone has insurance, it does mean that many patients who couldn’t afford health care before now can do so,” Dr. Arteaga said. “Health care is no longer an out-of-reach luxury for those who couldn’t afford insurance, but is a basic right for everyone
Dr. Arteaga has always thought that health care is a basic right, and has operated LaSalle Medical Associates as if that were the case.
Dr. Arteaga targeted his marketing to Latinos and low-income people who were underserved. Providing high quality medical services to underserved populations were crucial to the success of LaSalle Medical Associates. They later expanded from Fontana to San Bernardino and Hesperia. These communities have many low-income people in need of quality affordable medical services.
He also is Latino, so he easily related to his Latino patients in ways they appreciated. They told friends and family about LaSalle Medical Associates, which caused his popularity in the Inland Empire’s Latino culture to swell.
Dr. Arteaga has always believed that his key to business success was finding a way to get paid for their services, instead of telling patients they had to figure that out on their own before seeing him. For most of LaSalle’s history, that business model meant LaSalle employees educated patients about their health care insurance options.
Most patients LaSalle saw over the years qualified for either Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. The latter, which like Medi-Cal was run by the state of California, offered low to moderate-income parents who didn’t qualify for Medi-Cal a subsidy for the health care of their children from birth to age 19.
Things have changed in the last two years. In 2013, California got a head start on the Affordable Care Act; they created Covered California and merged Healthy Families and Medi-Cal together.
In 2014, one of the key Covered California’s requirements is everyone must have health insurance or pay a penalty. This means, many patients applied and signed up for Covered California, Medi-Cal or other insurance first, and then choose or are assigned to LaSalle Medical Associates.
Consequently, rather than informing new patients of their insurance options, LaSalle Medical Associates employees now more likely are helping the patients understand how their health insurance system works.
Dr. Arteaga acknowledges the Covered California has brought changes some people will take a while to get accustomed to. One of these is a concept called managed care.
“The structure of the Covered California means many people, both those who had some other type of insurance and those who were uninsured, are now in managed care for the first time,” he said.
Managed care is called this because it requires a doctor, such as one of the physicians in LaSalle Medical Associates, to coordinate patients’ health care services. These primary care doctors have a general, family or pediatric practice, and will treat patients for many of their symptoms, but will refer the patients to specialists when more expertise is needed.
Managed care has been around since the 1990s, Dr. Arteaga said, but it has become more popular. It’s usually more cost-efficient to have managed care, he explained, people choose to buy managed care for its lower premiums.
Medi-Cal has used managed care for nearly two decades. Meanwhile, LaSalle Medical Associates, since the beginning, has accepted Medi-Cal when many doctors would not, and now has a reputation among those familiar with Medi-Cal for providing quality services, no matter how payment is provided.
Even though there wasn’t “managed care,” as it now known when Dr. Arteaga started his practice, even back then he was in favor of patients developing close relationships with one family doctor.
“Thirty years ago I wanted to see all the patients, and manage their health care. That has not changed, but I have learned that in order to do so, a physician must take a leadership role. Otherwise, many patients will seek or demand services that are redundant or not needed.”
Dr. Arteaga sees the physician as an advocate for the patient, one who will make sure patients get the services they truly need. Sometimes, just as some patients will push for more health care than is necessary, some insurance companies will resist paying for what a doctor recommends, but that is not the intent of managed care.
“I want the patient, the doctor and the insurance company to develop a positive team, Dr. Arteaga said. “There may be opposition, but that should not stop any of us in trying to make quality health care succeed.”
Besides managed care and its great expansion through the Affordable Care Act, another large change in the health care industry over the last three decades has been more careful monitoring of expenses by insurance companies.
Now, it is better for a medical group like LaSalle Medical Associates to band with even more doctors, so they can take advantage of economies of scale, and provide health care more cost-efficiently.
This is why LaSalle Medical Associates formed an Independent Practice Association (IPA) in 1995, and has grown it to the point it now serves more than 600 medical clinics serving more than 170,000 patients each year in nine California counties.
LaSalle oversees administrative functions of all these medical clinics, although they are owned and manage their patients’ health care separately.
Another move to make health care more efficient, in many ways, is one that LaSalle Medical Associates only recently transitioned to. It now is keeping track of patients’ charts with electronic medical records, ridding itself of the wall full of patients’ medical records that once were a hallmark of many medical clinics.
“Electronic medical records make it easier to share patients’ records among a team of doctors who treat one patient, which results in better health care” Dr. Arteaga said. “It is also easier to keep patients’ records confidential this way.”
One other significant change over the last 30 years has been that most patients are more involved in their health care now than they were in 1984.
“They ask more questions now. Because of the Internet, and because people talk more about health care with their friends, patients now have more information. Not all of the information out there is correct, so this means a doctor helps the patient sort the good from the bad, and develop a treatment plan that works. This is another reason why the managed care approach is necessary.”
One thing Dr. Arteaga has learned during his three decades of medical practice is that change can be good. In fact, one thing he loves about being the CEO of LaSalle Medical Associates is that he gets to lead other health care professionals through the changes their industry faces.
“I love being collegial, and helping other doctors learn,” he said. “When they resist change, it is going to be more difficult for them. They should not expect to practice medicine as it was done 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago.”
In the end is true LaSalle Medical Associates has spent Three Decades Making People Healthier.
For more information about LaSalle Medical Associates, call (909) 890-0407 or go on line to LaSalleMedical.com.
About LaSalle Medical Associates
LaSalle Medical Associates, Inc., operates four clinics employing more than 120 dedicated healthcare professionals, treating children, adults, and seniors in San Bernardino County. LaSalle’s patients are primarily served by Medi-Cal and they also accept Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Molina, Care 1st, Health Net and Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP). LaSalle’s clinics are at 17577 Arrow Blvd. in Fontana, 16455 Main St. in Hesperia and 1505 West 17th St. and 565 N. Mt. Vernon Ave. in San Bernardino.
LaSalle Medical Associates, Inc., is also an Independent Practice Association (IPA) of independently contracted doctors, hospitals and clinics, delivering high quality care to more than 245,000 patients in Fresno, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Joaquin and Tulare Counties.
LaSalle’s IPA members in the Inland Empire include: LaSalle Medical Associates, Arrowhead Orthopedics, Arther Medical Group, Rancho Medical Group, Rancho Paseo Medical Group, Alessandro Medical Group Banning Medical Group, and San Bernardino Urological Associates. Hospital affiliations include: Rancho Springs Medical Center, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, Community Hospital of San Bernardino, St. Bernadine Medical Center, Mountains Community Hospital, Redland Community Hospital, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Corona Regional Medical Center, Riverside County Medical Center, Parkview Community Hospital.