Fifteen finalists were chosen this week for the seven open seats on the CalOptima board of directors with the medical industry and political insiders dominating the list.

Peter Agarwal, a bank vice president and one of only two current members to seek reappointment, didn’t make the cut, according to the list released by the county May 31.

The county Board of Supervisors will pick the seven new board members at the supervisors’ June 28 meeting.

CalOptima is the $3.2 billion federal and state-funded health plan for the county’s 782,000 poor, disabled and elderly county residents, about 26 percent of the county’s total population of more than three million.

The finalists were chosen from 55 applicants by a five-member committee headed by Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett and Supervisor Andrew Do. The other three committee members were county Health Care Agency Deputy Director Richard Sanchez, Janet Burt, a lawyer with Lewis, Brisebois, Bisgaard and Smith who also works with the recently-formed, Los Angeles-based Korean American Health Coalition and Lyn Semeta, a Huntington Beach planning commissioner and lawyer.

Both Bartlett and Do sit on the current, 11-member CalOptima board. The new board, which assumes office in August, will have nine voting members. Two of them will be county supervisors and the other seven will represent a variety of health-related categories.

Do has said he wants the new board members to discuss issues more deeply than the current board, which rarely talks about problems that confront its members or the quality of their care and mostly either urges higher payments for providers or just goes along with whatever the supervisors want. But, like the current board, only one seat is designated for a CalOptima member or someone in his or her family. The majority are reserved for the medical industry.

Most of the current board members were appointed in 2011 and 2012 when then-supervisor and now state Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) and hospital lobbyists changed the old ordinance and remade the board.

But among those who made the cut were lawyer Joseph Scott Schoeffel, who served with Bartlett on the Dana Point city council. Schoeffel, according to his application, has a contract with Integrated Healthcare Holdings Inc. (IHHI), which owns four Orange County hospitals and has been a generous campaign donor in the past.

The company also has a controversial history and changed its name to KPC Healthcare Inc. The law firm Schoeffel works for, Buchalter Nemer, also has IHHI/KPC as a client, according to Schoeffel’s application. The county lobbyist for KPC is Jeff Corless who was Bartlett’s campaign consultant when she ran for supervisor.

Steve Knoblock, another finalist, is a real estate lawyer and former San Clemente city councilman, who began his career as an aide to former Supervisor Larry Schmidt. Knoblock was one of Nguyen’s 2011 board appointees but resigned more than a year ago when he began working in Los Angeles. His seat remained vacant and he returned to work in Orange County and applied to rejoin the board.

Knoblock and Schoeffel are seeking the same seat, one reserved for a lawyer or accounting professional, so only one of them will be picked for the board. That is a seat that Agarwal also would have qualified for if he had been a finalist.

Another finalist is Ron Diluigi, retired lobbyist for the St. Joseph Health system and former director of the county Health Care Agency.

The only current board member who might return is Lee Penrose, the current CalOptima vice chairman, who is the president and CEO of St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton.

Click here for a link to a full list of the finalists.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated three of the five committee members who selected the finalists were county Health Care Agency employees. VOC regrets the error.

You can contact Tracy Wood at and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

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