Sutter Health says its new HMO is ahead of projected growth

The new health maintenance organization launched by Sutter Health in 2014 more than doubled its membership in 2015, Sutter Health Plus officials say.

The nonprofit organization now serves 37,000 people in Northern California. Most are in Sacramento, where Sutter Health Plus launched in January 2014.
The growth is ahead of projections, said Steve Nolte, CEO of Sutter Health Plus. “It is slightly better than we anticipated,” he said.

The HMO has been adding more counties and jurisdictions as it gets approvals. It added Sonoma County in spring of last year, and then in September added Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The HMO sells individual as well as small-group and large-group coverage through brokers. It received approvals for those products in the Bay Area in the fall, Nolte said. With that timing, the HMO largely missed out in annual sales and selection process in that market. He anticipates stronger growth out of the Bay Area this year.

Sutter Health Plus in the fall joined CaliforniaChoice, a private exchange for employers, which now accounts for 20 percent of the HMO’s members.

Sutter Health Plus now serves 14 Northern California counties. Its network includes 25 hospitals and campuses and 5,300 providers.

The HMO could add more counties, but those decisions have not yet been made. That step depends on whether there is an adequate network of primary care and specialty providers, hospital care, hospital capacity and other factors in the county, said Sutter Plus spokesman Sy Neilson.

Sutter Health Plus also is preparing to move its headquarters from five buildings scattered around South Natomas to a single office at 2480 Natomas Park Drive. The company anticipates moving into the larger space at the end of March. The HMO has grown from 50 employees to 82 since late 2014.

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