Supervisor Andrew Do, reportedly angered because he wasn’t elected chairman of the CalOptima board of directors, and supervisors’ Chairwoman Michelle Steel want to reshape the CalOptima board, giving county supervisors stronger control over the countywide $3.4 billion health plan for low income, disabled and elderly residents.
A draft change to the CalOptima ordinance appeared suddenly late Friday as a last minute addition to the Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday agenda.
Neither Do nor Steel responded Sunday to requests for an interview but an aide to Do sent an email that said, in part, "ensuring that there is local control over our community's healthcare is a top priority." It didn't address the question that Do was acting out of anger at being passed over for chairman of the CalOptima board.
The Orange County Taxpayers Association, backed by the medical industry, is pushing back at Do and Steel's plan, working with state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) to buck the supervisors’ move to take over CalOptima.
Sources close to the situation said Do was furious when the current CalOptima board refused to name him chairman in March and privately has been pressing other supervisors to support remaking the board.
His changes would expand the voting membership of the CalOptima board from nine to 11, remove some existing board seats and instead put on all five supervisors plus two county agency heads, who owe their positions to the supervisors.
But in Sacramento, Mendoza, whose southeast Los Angeles County district also includes Buena Park, moved last month to confront the CalOptima controversy. He gutted one of his bills addressing air regulations for trucks.
The newly amended bill, SB4, which is scheduled for a hearing by the Assembly Health Committee, also on Tuesday, requires the CalOptima board member categories to remain as they are.
The Mendoza bill is sponsored by the Orange County Taxpayers Association and has the support of the medical industry, including the Orange County Medical Association and several local hospital chains, like St. Joseph Hoag Health, Tenent Healthcare and MemorialCare Health System. It is opposed by Do and Steel.
The Do and Mendoza proposals are the latest in years of political drama and federal sanctions surrounding CalOptima, which uses federal and state tax funds to provide health care for 790,113 Orange County residents.
But, as Do’s predecessor as supervisor and former ally, state Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), showed other county politicians, CalOptima also is a rich source of campaign funds.
During her term on its board she raised more than $100,000 from the medical industry, according to her campaign reports, and Do, who followed her as supervisor, raised a similar amount.
Nguyen and the then-lobbyist for the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) remade the CalOptima board in 2011, giving control to the medical industry.
When he succeeded Nguyen, Do and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett last August also remade the board. Do said he wanted it to be more independent, but it still was dominated by the medical industry.
Do now wants to replace the board he created, putting supervisors firmly in control.
The current CalOptima board has:
—Two supervisors, Do and Bartlett.
—A current or former hospital administrator, Lee Penrose, the former CEO of St. Jude Medical Center is Fullerton and now Chief Operating Officer for acute care at St. Joseph Hoag Health.
—A representative of a community clinic, Ria Berger, CEO of Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County.
—A lawyer or accounting professional, Scott Schoeffel, who served with Bartlett on the Dana Point City Council. This seat would be eliminated on the proposed board.
—A public seat for a resident of Orange County, retired St. Joseph hospitals lobbyist Ron DiLuigi, who, before he was a lobbyist, worked for the county Health Care Agency for 27 years, at one point serving as interim director. The public seat also would be eliminated.
—A CalOptima member or family of a CalOptima member, Dr. Alexander Nguyen, whose mother is a CalOptima member. —A doctor in current practice who is not a representative of a contracted Independent Physician’s Assn. (IPA) or Health Network, Dr. Nikan Khatibi, a pain addiction specialist and Republican party activist.
—A licensed medical practitioner in current practice who is not an owner or officer or member of the board of an IPA or Health Network, Anesthesiologist Dr. Paul Yost, who served on the CalOptima board in the late 2000s before Nguyen took over, and is a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and St. Joseph’s hospital. He also is a former city councilman and mayor of Seal Beach.
Yost defeated Do for CalOptima board chairman in March.
The new board proposed by Do:
—All five members of the Board of Supervisors.
—The director of the county Health Care Agency.
—The director of the county Social Services Agency.
—A CalOptima member or a family member of a CalOptima member.
—A representative of a community clinic.
—A licensed medical provider in current practice.
—A current or former hospital administrator or former administrator.
The Do plan eliminates the lawyer, the public member and one of the two seats reserved for a doctors or medical provider. By adding the other three supervisors as voting members plus the two county agency directors, Do’s proposal would give firm control to the supervisors.
The Board of Supervisors meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and the
Assembly Health Committee, which streams audio of its meeting, begins at 1:30 p.m.
You can contact Tracy Wood at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC