ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Way before Obamacare, Daniel Sorrells became an active student of health care — and health insurance — as a Medicaid case worker in Oklahoma for teen parents needing medical assistance.
“I had a 150 teen mom caseload,” said Sorrells, who moved up to more progressively responsible roles during his career. “I felt good about the work I was doing early on,” said Sorrells.
Nearly 30 years later, as the newly named president of Molina Healthcare of New Mexico, Sorrells continues to look for ways to improve health insurance and the health care industry. “After my family, it’s what I’m most passionate about,” Sorrells said.
Sorrells has led Molina’s New Mexico division for the past two months as its interim president following the resignation of Patty Kehoe. He previously served as president of the insurer’s Oklahoma subsidiary.
In the Sooner State and in Colorado, Sorrells has experience developing and administering managed care and clinical service delivery systems for both public and private sector organizations.
Molina, part of an investor-owned company, serves approximately 270,000 members in New Mexico through Medicaid, Medicare and the state health insurance marketplace. Sorrells and his team have their work cut out for them with ACA replace-and-repeal efforts underway in Congress and concerns about the future of the Medicaid expansion, which has helped grow the company’s market share in the state in recent years.
Sorrells now leads the state’s second-largest private company. Molina posted $1.3 billion in revenue in 2015 and employs about 1,200 people. It is the largest participant in the state’s insurance marketplace, with about 37 percent of the 55,000 New Mexicans who enrolled for 2016 coverage.
Sorrells recently weighed in on a several issues that will affect the company’s business going forward.
Q: With state insurance marketplace rates due in just a week, what must be done to keep the exchange-based individual market viable in 2018?
A: There is a sense of urgency around the cost-sharing subsidy. Without those, it’s a problem for consumers, and it’s a problem for plans. That said, we are committed to New Mexico, and despite the funding uncertainties (from payers), we are finalizing our rates for the marketplace and submitting them to the state insurance commissioner for review.
Q: What areas of coverage do you see the most upside for 2-5 years out?
A: I’d like to see us grow our Medicare Advantage product line, which is the private, managed care version of the federal health program for seniors. It will be the safest option for many insurers as the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress work on legislation dismantling the ACA. I’d also like to see more of an emphasis on behavioral health on the outpatient side. There are huge gaps in mental health services in this state, and we have more than sufficient capacity and staff expertise to help manage care for these patients.
Q: Molina of New Mexico recently announced the layoffs of 81 employees in its health care services department. Are more job cuts planned?
A: There are no plans for future staff reductions, but we also have to make sure we are operating as efficiently as possible. In the case of the recent layoffs, these were driven by a state restructuring of its care coordination rules, and we were overstaffed. We look to optimize our local workforce by helping service other Molina plans. A good example is our New Mexico call center, which supports other plan members and our providers around the country.
Q: What do you think of New Mexico so far?
A: I love the state. I have a bunch of family who live here, so I’ve been visiting for the better part of my life. I mountain bike and hike, so I’m looking forward to hitting some trails real soon.
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: My wife and I have three grown daughters and two granddaughters. We’ve both been Meals on Wheels drivers for years, and this is a volunteer activity we hope to continue in Albuquerque. We’re looking to put down roots, which means we’re scoping out new homes.