FORT MOHAVE — A local committee focused on improving communications and service with Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System providers met at Valley View Medical Center this week with the chief executive officers of Care 1st Health Plan Arizona and Health Choice Arizona.

Attendees at the working lunch for Arizona Healthcare Accountability Committee, hosted by Valley View Medical Center, included Jami Snyder, AHCCCS assistant deputy director; David Lane, Lake Havasu City Council; Patrick Hansen, Health Choice Arizona vice president provider networking; and Valley View Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Emma Canlas and Chief of Staff Dr. Richard Benedict.

“As a health plan, our main role is to contract with providers and make sure that through those providers that our members who are assigned by AHCCCS get the services that they need,” said Shawn Nau, Health Choice Arizona CEO. One of the things we always talk about internally is that getting feedback from communities is actually the hardest thing — so one of the nice things about this group is it really does provide that service in a way that no other community in northern Arizona has.”

Care 1st Health Plan Arizona and Health Choice Arizona (Steward Health Choice Arizona) were awarded state contracts in March to provide integrated healthcare delivery — physical and behavioral healthcare — for Mohave County residents on AHCCCS. Care 1st Health Plan Arizona replaced United Health Care Community Plan and Banner University Family Health Care Plan in Mohave, Coconino, Apache, Navajo and Yavapai counties.

Service with AHCCCS Complete Care plans begin Oct. 1.

“It’s welcoming,” said Scott Cummings, Care 1st of Arizona CEO, of the committee. “I think if we were on opposite sides with a block wall in front of us and we were both banging our heads against a wall, it’s not going to work ever — I applaud them for getting this together.” 

Arizona State Rep. Regina Cobb, Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Welfare chairperson and Health Committee vice-chairperson, also attended the meeting, which hosted discussions on the challenges with specialist physicians not accepting AHCCCS and Veterans Affairs patients, efforts to streamline and make consistent AHCCCS billing and prior authorization issues, physician credentialing process streamlining and bringing needed specialists to Mohave County.

“We’ve already been working with AHCCCS and health cares at the state level,” Cobb said. “I wanted to see what they were actually getting from the community and I wanted to see what the community has been giving them.”

The issues discussed in the meeting were not new to her, Cobb said. 

“If they didn’t have to be pushed to do the contract this year, we wouldn’t have as much cooperation,” Cobb said. “So I want to see where this is all going to go in March, April, May, next year and where they’re sitting then. I heard some positive things today and I hope they stay positive, but from what I’ve seen in the last four years, I’m not hopeful. We’ve got two new companies, so hopefully that’s going to change — but it hasn’t been that way in the past.”

Mohave County District 5 Sup. Lois Wakimoto formed the committee after she received numerous complaints from area healthcare providers regarding slow payment or no payment by Health Choice Arizona, a managed care organization and insurer contracted by AHCCCS for Mohave County residents enrolled in Medicare and receiving assistance under Medicaid. 

“Today’s meeting was very informative (and) very productive,” Wakimoto said.  “AZHAC is important because we’re holding everybody accountable; not just the providers but the insurance companies, AHCCCS, and everybody else.” 

Committee members are liaisons representing various health service sectors from within the county and include members from Bullhead City, Mohave Valley, Fort Mohave, Lake Havasu City and Kingman. Healthcare providers with issues can email Trent Pike, committee director, at The committee meets quarterly.

“I’d like to see more and more meetings like these,” said Canlas, Valley View’s CFO. “People working together to get what is good for our patients and our community.” 

Wakimoto said, “We’re trying to work together to streamline things, to better service this area and make sure we bring in specialties that we need. We’re looking outside of the box, where we can overlap and serve as many people as possible while making sure that the distance they have to travel is not overwhelming for them — so that continued medical care for the citizens of Mohave County is available.”

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