CALOPTIMA: Latino-Rights Group Seeks Overhaul of Board
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a statewide Latino-rights organization, wants to disband the board that oversees CalOptima, Orange County's medical assistance program for the poor, disabled, and some elderly. In a letter to Attorney General Bill Lockyer, LULAC said most CalOptima board members are "from the corporate sector and have no business overseeing a health care agency funded with public money." Moreover, while 71% of CalOptima clients are ethnic minorities, there is no minority representation on the board. According to LULAC, disbanding the board in favor of elected leaders "would better represent the interests" of the community. CalOptima currently spends about $500 million per year to provide medical care to 200,000 county residents. Board members are appointed by the county Board of Supervisors for four-year terms. The Los Angeles Times reports that under its bylaws, "three of the board's members represent health care providers and three represent consumers, beneficiaries, organizations serving beneficiaries, unions, employers and other purchasers of health care for consumers." But Art Montz, a LULAC spokesperson, said, "None of the guys (on the board) is Latino. They don't represent the community." Deputy Director Zeke Hernandez added that "[t]here are more than enough reasons to believe that" CalOptima funds will be used to "offset costs incurred from the county's recent bankruptcy," citing the county's lack of interest in using the tobacco settlement for health care.
As to the ethnicity of board members, Hernandez said, "They need to open the door, and that's why we want an elected process where people submit their names and then it is up to the voters to decide." But Lockyer's office said it has no jurisdiction over CalOptima. In the absence of elections, Supervisor Cynthia Coad said, "I am not a proponent of appointing anyone just to appoint someone. I want to match the qualifications to the position." But Don Oxley, director of the county's Health Care Agency, "said that past searches have included extensive outreach to every ethnic community." He said that in the future, "LULAC can help in generating some candidates" (Warren/Hill-Holtzman, 5/31).