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Dr. C. David Molina; Founded HMO for Medi-Cal Recipients


Dr. C. David Molina, a pioneer in managed health care for welfare recipients, has died at the age of 70.

Molina, who founded Molina Medical Centers in 1985 and served as its president and chief executive officer, died Sunday at his home in Long Beach.

The family health maintenance organization has more than 105,000 members in eight counties, primarily in Southern California.

Molina and his firm won a state contract to serve mothers receiving Medi-Cal and their children throughout California in 1994. The no-bid contract, considered to be worth $400 million, was awarded amid some controversy after Molina's application listed state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) on its board of directors. Watson oversaw health programs as chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee. Molina and Watson denied that she had done anything to influence granting the company's license or awarding the contract.

A study that year by the Center for Health Care Rights indicated that Molina had received the lucrative contract despite his company's record of state citations for deficiencies in health care.

Molina criticized the study for using too small a sample of all statewide HMOs and said state auditors had misjudged his clinics' medical care.

"I think we do a pretty damn good job, frankly, contrary to what some of those audits look like," Molina told The Times.

The doctor noted that he had set up a clinic to serve Medi-Cal recipients in 1980 when "no one wanted Medi-Cal patients . . . when no one else was interested."

A respected doctor for more than 35 years, Molina was born in Yuma, Ariz., and studied education at San Diego State. He began his career as an elementary school teacher at the Yuma Indian School and later taught in Long Beach.

He earned his medical degree from the California College of Medicine, which later became UC Irvine, and set up in private practice in Long Beach.

In 1962, he developed that city's first intensive care unit at Pacific Hospital, where he also served as the director of the emergency department for 21 years. He earned a grant to develop a paramedic system for Long Beach and trained its first teams of firemen.

Aware of the need for HMO-type care, Molina earned a master's degree in public health from UCLA. For six years, he served as consultant for General Medical Centers Health Plan in Pomona, aiding in HMO organization and administration.

Molina is survived by his wife of 43 years, Mary; sons Mario and John; daughters Martha and Josephine Molina and Janet Watt, and four grandchildren.

A rosary is scheduled for 7 p.m. today and funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Anthony's Catholic Church.

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