Patti McFarland, chief financial officer at a Central California health plan for low-income and disabled residents, will be the new chief financial officer at CalOptima, Orange County’s $1.5-billion health plan.

McFarland, who will be paid $274,000, succeeds Michael Ewing, who became chief financial officer in November but resigned effective in June to care for a family member with a serious illness.

In announcing McFarland’s appointment Monday, CalOptima Chief Executive Officer Michael Schrader cited her “broad health care knowledge and experience,” which, he said, is an important asset as CalOptima moves to implement the new federal health law. She will handle CalOptima’s day-to-day finances.

CalOptima has about 430,000 members, including about one third of all children in Orange County.

Over the past year, the organization has been wracked by management upheaval, with more than 20 top-level and key executives leaving in the past 18 months for positions in private industry or other government agencies.

McFarland comes to CalOptima from the smaller but similarly structured Central California Alliance for Health, which, according to its website, serves about 210,000 members in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Merced counties. She has been with the alliance — like CalOptima part of the state’s County Organized Health Systems — for more than 15 years and will join CalOptima in mid-June, according to the CalOptima news release.

She holds a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Arizona State University, is a licensed certified public accountant and for the last 13 years has been treasurer of the California Association of Health Insuring Organizations, the professional association for health plans like CalOptima.

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