CalOptima’s board of directors is scheduled to vote Thursday to transfer $3 million of its federal and state reserve funds to its foundation in a major policy shift that will expand the foundation’s influence in the county.

Functioning as the county’s managed health care plan for the poor and elderly, the $1.5-billion agency serves nearly half a million people.

According to documents attached to the agenda, some community work would move to the foundation from the direct control of CalOptima. The CalOptima board of directors also is the board for the foundation.

New foundation activities would include:

  • Aiding developing programs or proposals that “address unmet community needs” and “increasing provider capacity.” One example, according to the documents, would be providing recuperative care for homeless CalOptima members when they are discharged from a hospital
  • “Supporting community programs, such as community health promotion and Medi-Cal outreach and enrollment events.” That would include activities that promote health.
  • Applying for federal and private foundation grants and “partnering with community groups on solutions to healthcare gaps.”

Both the CalOptima Foundation and CalOptima’s existing community relations are directed by Michael Ruane, a longtime county manager and current CalOptima chief of strategy and public affairs.

The CalOptima Foundation was created in 2010 to obtain a federal grant that allowed it to help train local doctors to use electronic technology in preparation for the Affordable Care Act. That work will continue under the proposed foundation expansion.

Judy Nadler, consultant to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, said that because of the foundation’s new size and potential local impact, its goals should be clearly spelled out for the public, and existing nonprofits need to publicly weigh in “before they [the CalOptima board] make a decision of this nature.”

“What are the goals?” she asked. “It’s really important to know that [and] discuss it in a public session.”

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