For the third time since 2012, CalOptima, Orange County’s health plan for elderly, low-income and disabled people, has named a new chief financial officer.

Chet Uma, who is leaving a similar position at the Inland Empire Health Plan, which is Riverside and San Bernardino’s version of CalOptima, will start June 16 at a salary of $277,000. He replaces Patti McFarland, who turned in her resignation after less than a year, to accept a similar position in northern California.

With $1.7 billion in federal and state funds, CalOptima is Orange County’s largest agency, serving more than 550,000 members, according to its web site. The $2.8 billion Inland Empire Health Plan is much larger, serving more than 800,000 residents.

Since 2012, every key CalOptima executive, including CEO, CFO, chief medical officer and chief operations officer, quit to take positions in private industry or other government agencies. CEO Michael Schrader has been working to stabilize management at the same time the health plan is rapidly expanding with the implementation of the national Affordable Care Act.

Uma takes over the agency’s top financial position as it continues to address critical federal and state audits that have highlighted problems with how it provides and oversees its services.

Critics say CalOptima’s management and compliance issues coincided with Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s efforts to take control of the agency and its board in late 2011.

Among other things, Nguyen, board chairman and Health Care Agency Director Mark Refowitz and CalOptima board Vice Chairman, Lee Penrose, president of St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton, sidetracked a comprehensive study of weaknesses at CalOptima, killing a chance to fix problems ahead of the federal and state audits.

The CalOptima board Thursday re-elected Refowitz and Penrose as chairman and vice chairman for another year. There were no other candidates among the 11 voting board members.

Uma has been CFO at the Inland Empire Health Plan since 2005. Before that, he worked for 16 years in healthcare management and other insurance and medical administrative posts. He holds an MBA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

McFarland, who was earning $274,000 a year, began in May, 2013 and will leave this month for a similar post at the smaller, but similarly structured Partnership HealthPlan based in Fairfield in Solano County. It covers 14 counties north of San Francisco and Sacramento, from the California coast to the Nevada border.

McFarland came to CalOptima from the Central California Alliance for Health, which serves residents in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Merced counties. Like CalOptima, it is part of the state’s County Organized Health Systems.

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