MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — December 29, 2010

I have served on the Board of Directors of CalOptima ( for the past four years.  It rarely gets mentioned in the news.  A rare article finally appeared last month (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — November 11, 2010).  For a governmental agency with a $1 billion annual budget, one would think that it might receive a little more attention from our local media.

Quoting from its own materials, “CalOptima is a county organized health care system that administers health insurance programs for Orange County children, low income families, seniors, and people with disabilities.”  Orange County adopted a county organized health care system (COHS) as its hospital was sold to the University of California, Irvine.  Consequently, CalOptima attempts to provide the highest possible quality health care for its members through three major programs:

·         Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid Program) for low-income residents and people with disabilities;

·         Healthy Families Program (California’s Children’s Health Insurance Program) for children in lower-income families who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal; and

·         OneCare-HMO (a Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan) for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities who qualify for both Medicare and Medi-Cal.

To put it another way, CalOptima is the state’s local arm in coordinating care between those who qualify (for the above funding) with doctors, hospitals, and long-term care settings here in Orange County.

CalOptima currently serves 419,000 members.  This represents 13.5 percent of our county’s population (more than 1 in 8 residents)!  It is the largest COHS in the United States.  It is the fourth largest Medi-Cal managed care plan in California based on total enrollment, with a Medicaid program larger than those of 16 states.  It is the second largest health insurer in Orange County.

Earlier this month CalOptima held its Strategic Planning offsite Board meeting.  One of the topics was “Health Care Reform:  A Glimpse into the Future,” presented by Timothy Murphy, M.P.P., President and CEO, Beacon Health Strategies and former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Massachusetts, under Governor Mitt Romney.  He discussed the implementation of statewide health care reform that now finds 97.3 percent of the Massachusetts’s population insured.

Also discussed were health insurance exchanges.  As politely as I could, I stated that this particular presentation failed to mention one thing:  the politics of it all.  The national elections of the prior month provided a statement that this country is not amused with our current President’s health care reform.  Consequently, neither are the majority of this county’s residents.

Janet Nguyen, the Chair of the OC Board of Supervisors, and I have notified the management of CalOptima that they have two months to make the argument for having our COHS also become an exchange.  If that fails, then today’s OC Register editorial is on target.


The three Board of Supervisors members who were elected this year, Supervisors Bates, Nelson and myself, will be sworn into office on Tuesday, January 11, 2011, at 9:30 a.m. in the Board Chambers.  Orange County Superior Court Judge James E. Rogan will officiate my swearing in.  If you are available, I invite you to attend.  A reception will be held in the Hall of Administration’s lobby starting at 8:30 a.m. (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Oath of Office Invitation).


On January 15, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., I will enjoy a rowing opportunity in the Upper Newport Bay with the Newport Bay Conservancy – see  More info to follow.  Date subject to change in case of rain.

A little bit about the outing:

·         We leave from and return to the Newport Aquatic Center (NAC) located @ 1 White Cliffs Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660

·         We will be in multi-hull outrigger canoe(s)

o   Dennis Baker, our host, will steer, you and I will provide the power

o   Canoes can carry 6 people in each hull

§  Single hull for 6

§  Double hull for 12

§  Triple hull for 18

§  Additional canoes if needed

§  We have “squish” room on these numbers so we don’t need exact multiples of 6.

I’ll provide more details in upcoming Updates.


Except for a possible op ed in the San Diego Union Tribune, I should be out of the media the next few days, which means this will be my last Update for the year.  Accordingly, allow me to wish you and yours a Happy New Year!

Editorial: Public option for O.C.?

Orange County may have its own battle over a health care public option in early 2011, mirroring the debate over including a government health insurance plan in the federal health care law approved last spring.

A new California law taking effect Jan. 1 would allow local public health care agencies to offer insurance coverage in competition with private companies. This is bad for the health care system because it will impact quality of care and push private health insurers out of the market, eventually creating a government monopoly. To thwart this effort, the Orange County Board of Supervisors ought to amend a county ordinance and stop a local public option.

As we have noted, the California Legislature in September approved Assembly Bill 1602, which was intended to create a state government health care exchange as mandated under the federal law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Despite opposition from numerous groups, including the O.C. supervisors, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill.

Under AB1602, local public health care agencies, like CalOptima in Orange County, could offer a public option.

The supervisors created CalOptima in 1993 to administer government-subsidized health care for the elderly and poor under Medicare and Medi-Cal. The board has authority over who CalOptima may serve, thus, supervisors could, and should, amend the ordinance governing CalOptima to prevent the agency from competing with private insurers.

Reed Royalty, president of the Orange County Taxpayers Association, urged in a letter to Supervisor John Moorlach, the board’s representative to the CalOptima board, that the board "reject the public option" and "amend CalOptima’s Ordinance to stop the agency’s move in that direction." We agree.

President Barack Obama suffered major backlash from the American electorate due, in part, to his health care plan, even though a public option, possibly the most controversial element of the original plan, was removed. If CalOptima’s ordinance is not amended, Orange County could get a public option. The Board of Supervisors should act swiftly to stop CalOptima from doing so.


December 27


Norberto Santana, Jr. of the OC Register tackled future transitions in “New faces to complement board’s new focus – At least two county supervisors will leave in early 2007, soon after the body is getting past the bankruptcy fiasco.”  Here are a few selected paragraphs:

                There will be an election to replace Supervisors Tom Wilson and Jim Silva, who both took office just as the depths of the county’s $1 billion debt set in, next year.

                Races to replace them have shifted into high gear, with Treasurer-Tax Collector John Moorlach fundraising to replace Silva in the board’s 2nd District, which covers cities such as Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley.

                Moorlach was expected to face off against state Assemblyman Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach.  Then Harman shifted his focus to run for the state Senate’s 35th District seat, vacated earlier this month by John Campbell, R-Irvine, who was elected to Congress.

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