The generally well-regarded chief of L.A. Care, responsible for the largest public managed care program in the nation, has resigned, apparently under pressure from board members.
The resignation of Anthony D. Rodgers was worked out in a closed-door session. It came two weeks after Rodgers was placed on leave because the board accused him of failing to disclose his marriage to a Blue Cross official, an alleged conflict of interest.
Rodgers could not be reached for comment Wednesday about why he is leaving his $242,000-a-year post. It was not clear when the resignation would be effective.
Two weeks ago, Rodgers said he made no secret of his marriage, and added that his wife, Deborah, is not in a policy-setting post with Blue Cross.
"I was surprised that, with my track record, that they would not consider . . . other options [besides a leave of absence]," he said at the time.
His ouster drew sharp criticism from health care advocates, one of whom dismissed the conflict-of-interest claims as "ridiculous."
L.A. Care, which was set up by the county but is run as a separate entity, oversees managed care programs for 659,000 recipients of Medi-Cal and other health care aid in Los Angeles County.
Critics of L.A. Care--particularly those who work with the county's own health facilities and community health plan--have complained that the organization funnels some patients and resources away from county clinics and into private HMOs and hospitals.
Under Rodgers' guidance, L.A. Care, which competes with a private Medi-Cal HMO run by Health Net, has grown to be the largest public managed care organization since it began signing up beneficiaries in 1997.
Last year, it had gross revenues of more than $650 million, reserves of $19 million and net income of $4 million, according to a letter announcing Rodgers' resignation by the president of the organization's board, Rodney D. Armstead.
"I think it's terribly unfortunate," said Lynn Kersey, a former L.A. Care board member who runs the advocacy group Maternal and Child Health Access in Los An
geles. "He was doing an excellent job, and he obviously cared very much about getting people health care."
She called the allegation that Rodgers' marriage to a Blue Cross employee amounted to a conflict of interest "ridiculous."
It is difficult to say exactly how the conflict allegation played into discussions between Rodgers and the L.A. Care board, because neither side is talking.
However, officials said two weeks ago that the board was concerned that Rodgers did not disclose his marriage to a Blue Cross staff member. Blue Cross, which is owned by Thousand Oaks-based Wellpoint Health Networks, is one of eight health plans that serve as subcontractors to L.A. Care.
Rodgers' supporters point out that several board members have a personal stake in health care in the region.
For example, board member Mark Finucane runs the county Department of Health Services, whose own Medi-Cal HMO subcontracts with L.A. Care, and county Supervisor Don Knabe sits on the board. Other board members have close ties with professional associations representing hospitals, medical groups and health plans.
In his letter, Armstead acknowledged Rodgers' accomplishments and defended the board's deliberations as "extremely fair."
Knabe declined to comment, and Finucane could not be reached. Armstead did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not clear who will replace Rodgers. According to Armstead's letter, a search committee has been formed, headed by retired USC faculty member Dr. Robert Tranquada.