A plan to give Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen a permanent seat on the county’s CalOptima board is triggering a firestorm of controversy, even before its Tuesday debut at the board’s regular meeting.

CalOptima was set up by the county in the early 1990s as a “complex health insurance managed care company” targeting the toughest-to-reach populations. It’s policies not only affect one of the most vulnerable communities but also affects the health care industry, one of the most politically connected of campaign donors.

Nguyen, who could not be reached for comment over the weekend, is not the formal sponsor of the change. Officially it’s the county counsel’s office. Colleagues say, however, that she is promoting an enabling ordinance behind the scenes.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson confirmed late Friday that Nguyen had lobbied him for adoption of the proposal, which he adamantly opposes.

Nelson said he is against allowing a supervisor from the district with the most CalOptima users — Nguyen’s 1st District — to have a permanent seat on the agency. That kind of thinking, Nelson said, would have supervisors with the most county parks control the parks department while those with landfills in their district would control waste disposal policy.

Others are also alarmed by Nguyen’s idea.

After seeing the ordinance change late last week, CalOptima Board Chairman Edward Kacic issued an email Saturday blasting the process and the proposed changes.

“I do not know the rationale for the proposed changes, the process undertaken to craft these revisions, or the nature of any stakeholder input conducted before making this proposal public. Neither I, nor as far as I know, any other independent (i.e., non County of Orange) CalOptima Board member was included in the process,” Kacic wrote.

“After reading the proposed ordinance changes, I have substantive concerns about the specific revisions being proposed and their ultimate impact on the best interests of our members,” Kacic added.

“I also have serious questions about the process undertaken to develop this proposal.”


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