VENTURA COUNTY: Medical Association Opposes Measure O
Arguing that some of the county's tobacco settlement "should go to the county's public hospital and clinic system to care for poor or uninsured patients," the Ventura County Medical Association announced Wednesday its opposition to Measure O, the Community Memorial Hospital-sponsored ballot initiative that would divert the county's share of the tobacco settlement to private hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports. VCMA President-elect Max Stearns said, "[A] significant portion [of the settlement money] should be used to support the safety net in place in Ventura County, especially for indigent patients." The decision followed "months of debate" between association members who favored Measure O because it would allocate the funds to health care, and members who believed the initiative would favor private hospitals at the expense of the county-run Ventura County Medical Center. Stearns said, "We're concerned that Measure O locks in monies that appear to be going to basically three hospitals -- Community Memorial, Los Robles and Simi Valley -- for a 25-year period." He added, "And there certainly is a feeling that those three hospitals sharing money in perpetuity is not the best things for patients in Ventura County." CMH spokesperson Mark Barnhill said the hospital was not surprised by the association's decision because it "is predominately made up of physicians associated with the county hospital." However, VCMA Executive Director Mary Carr countered that only 15% of the association's members are on the staff at the county facility. She said, "The VCMA's position on Measure O represents our concerns for all patients throughout Ventura County. The decision was not influenced by a small segment of our members" (Kelley, 9/21).
One for Measure O
Meanwhile, Measure O received backing from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association earlier this week. Association President Jon Coupal said, "Measure O ensures the tobacco settlement money will be used only for health care services and programs, and it protects the public from governmental squandering of the windfall." Ventura County Supervisor Judy Mikels said that she did not understand why a taxpayer advocacy group would support a measure that diverts funds from the county. Coupal argued that the county "has little credibility in determining how to spend taxpayer money" (Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 9/19).