California HMO pioneer Howard Davis dies

Howard Davis, a leader in the HMO industry in California since the 1960s, has died at age 89.

In the early 1960s, Davis served as an executive for Family Health Plan, which later was acquired by Pacificare and UnitedHealthcare. Working with Dr. Robert Gumbiner, he established the first pilot for Medicaid managed care in California, according to his son, Jay Davis.

As a consultant, he evaluated HMO grant applications for the federal government.

In 1970, he served as vice president of the California Medical Group Health Plan, which later was acquired by Cigna.

He established Universal Care in 1983. That company now does business as Brand New Day, a family-owned Medicare Advantage special needs health plan available in 12 California counties. It was one of the first SNP plans.

The company focused on serving people with serious mental illness in Orange County. “Most of my father’s career was dedicated to taking care of vulnerable populations,” said Jay Davis, who serves as executive vice president of Brand New Day.

Davis served as CEO of Brand New Day until five years ago, and remained as chairman until his death. All four of his children and two of his nephews are actively involved in company operations.

Davis received the Community Health Services Award by the Black American Political Association of California for his commitment of serving the health needs of the African-American community.

His community involvement included supporting the American Cancer Society and the Long Beach Jewish Family and Children’s Service.

Davis was born in Montreal and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was a teenager.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, four children, Marc, Jeff, Jay and Laura, and 12 grandchildren.

“It was a passion of my father to take care of the communities in which we lived and served,” his son said.