The county supervisor for central Orange County will likely return to the CalOptima health plan’s board in March, after the completion of a federal and state audits into the agency, county supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer announced Tuesday.

It comes at a critical time for CalOptima, which manages health care for more than 600,000 poor residents, most of them children and elderly.

A federal audit last year found that “widespread” problems at CalOptima were leading to a “serious threat to the health and safety” of elderly patients.

State auditors also found “serious and significant” problems, including potentially dangerous delays in approving prescriptions.  Agency officials have vowed to fix the issues identified by auditors.

The two county supervisor appointees have a powerful role on the CalOptima board, given that the rest of the board members have to be approved by county supervisors.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Spitzer told newly sworn-in first district supervisor Andrew Do that he would hand off his own CalOptima position to him after the expected completion of federal and state audit follow-ups in March.

Do represents the First District, where a large portion of CalOptima’s members live.  The district includes Santa Ana, Westminster, Garden Grove, Midway City and part of Fountain Valley.

Do’s predecessor and former boss, state Sen. Janet Nguyen, held the CalOptima appointment until leaving office in December.

Spitzer, who joined Nguyen on the CalOptima board in the wake of last year’s audit findings, said he wanted to see the process through to the end before handing over the seat.

“We’ve really been engaged in very deep policy analysis and discussions and working to emerge out of sanctions by the federal and state governments,” Spitzer said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’d like to finish what I’m doing and then have you, Supervisor Do, take over on CalOptima. I think the First District needs to be represented on CalOptima.”

Supervisor Lisa Barlett, who represents South County, was recently appointed to CalOptima, where she will join Spitzer until he hands off the position.

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