Sacramento’s CalOptima power grab

By Supervisor Andrew Do

We stand to lose control of our health care. Sacramento is trying to strip Orange County of local control over matters that affect almost one in every four residents. I am fighting to protect local control and maintain quality health care for the most vulnerable in our community.

CalOptima is Orange County’s health care system, which administers health insurance programs for over 790,000 low-income children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities. CalOptima is governed by a nine-member board of directors, the majority of which are providers of medical services, such as doctors and hospital representatives. With their majority, they have the power to change the billing rates that CalOptima pays to providers, directly impacting their pocketbooks. It was claimed that the medical providers routinely recuse themselves from CalOptima board votes in which they have conflicts of interest, yet last month they voted on the budget, which directly affects their financial interests.

Providers know that the Orange County Board of Supervisors has the ability to change the CalOptima board’s make-up, so now they are seeking to solidify their power on the board by proposing legislation (Senate Bill 4) to take away local control away from the Board of Supervisors and vest it in Sacramento. SB4 was originally a bill about truck driving that was gutted and amended into its current form, which will deprive us of local control over our health care. SB4 is an attempt to suppress the will of Orange County voters.

Reimbursement rates to medical providers fluctuate, and are projected to drop in the near future. Is this the time to let health providers, including doctors and hospitals who have financial interests control CalOptima’s finances, potentially hurting members’ care? I believe this is the time we need to improve oversight over the county’s largest agency by adding more public representation to the board..

Chairwoman Michelle Steel and I proposed changing the CalOptima Ordinance to place all five county supervisors on the board of direcctors because we believe the people should have a say in their health care. As supervisors, we represent the people; we are accountable to the voters. If the public is unsatisfied with the decisions my colleagues and I make, we can be voted out of office, but the providers who sit on the CalOptima board cannot be voted out of office..

CalOptima is the county’s largest agency, with a $3.4 billion budget. Currently, only two supervisors serve on the CalOptima board, yet the agency is almost three times the size of the Orange County Transportation Authority, which has all five supervisors on its board. Having all five supervisors on the CalOptima board would allow for a fairer representation of the people of Orange County, increase oversight, and ensure that the public is in control over their health care..

Greater participation by the entire Board of Supervisors would result in greater stability and transparency in the management of CalOptima. If our county health provider community continues to push for SB4, a power grab by Sacramento, then good governance was never the real reason, and it was about money and control all along..

I was elected to represent the people. I will continue to fight for quality health care for the nearly 800,000 Orange County residents who depend on CalOptima, 42 percent of whom live in my district.