Board Fills Two CalOptima Seats

The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday filled two of three vacant seats on the board of directors of CalOptima, the $1.4-billion health plan for the county’s low income, disabled and elderly residents.

Anaheim Planning Commission Chairman Peter K. Agarwal and Tricia K. Nguyen, chief executive officer of Orange County’s largest community clinic, the Asian Health Center, were appointed to four-year terms on the 11-member board. One vacancy remains.

The supervisors’ vote was four-to-one with Chairman John Moorlach voting against the two appointees, saying other candidates also were strongly qualified.

Agarwal takes the seat designated for business interests, and Tricia Nguyen, who is no relation to Supervisor Janet Nguyen, will represent community clinics. The remaining vacancy is for a “consumer,” someone to represent individuals who receive CalOptima services.

As of last week, nine candidates have applied for the consumer slot since June, according to records at the county’s Health Care Agency, but it’s unclear when an appointment will be made.

Agarwal is vice president of Citizens Business Bank in Fullerton and lives in Anaheim Hills. Tricia Nguyen is the CEO of the 33-year-old nonprofit Vietnamese Community of Orange County, which operates the Asian Health Center in Garden Grove. The health center provides medical and dental care to about 10,000 patients a year, according to its website.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen threw the two-decades-old, federally and state financed CalOptima into turmoil last fall when she restructured its board of directors, expanding the board from nine to eleven members and giving providers a stronger voice.

Everyone who was on the board when Nguyen took over has either resigned or been replaced. Nguyen, with nearly two years on the board, is its longest serving member. Most members have been on the board less than a year.

In addition, at least 16 top- or mid-level executives left CalOptima, most for positions in private industry, over the past year. The organization, which serves more than 400,000 low income, disabled and elderly residents, currently has no chief executive officer. Its chief operating officer, Mike Ruane, is on loan to CalOptima from the Children and Families Commission, where he was the top executive.

— TRACY WOOD

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