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O.C. supes wrangle over funding

Colleagues balk when Moorlach seeks to hold back $54,000 from a medical group.

August 20, 2008|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach sought to withhold nearly $54,000 in funding from a doctors group Tuesday because it recently filed a request seeking records from CalOptima, the county's version of the statewide MediCal program.

Fellow supervisors balked at his request, with one calling it "antagonistic" and another saying it amounted to retaliation. The funding measure ultimately passed with the doctors' funding intact.

The money was part of the Medical Services Initiative, a $70-million program administered by the county that contracts with private medical service providers to care for the poor. As Supervisor Janet Nguyen noted during the meeting, the county program has no connection to CalOptima.

The doctors group, the Orange County Medical Assn., has been frustrated with Cal- Optima because, among other things, it cut the fees paid to doctors for treating patients at the same time that it raised salaries for the agency's administrative staff.

Michele Revelle, a lobbyist for the group, told the board the group filed the official document request after more informal efforts werestymied.

Moorlach sits on the CalOptima board. He said at Tuesday's supervisors' hearing that the Public Records Act request did not seem appropriate "if you have a partnership and are working together."

Countered Supervisor Chris Norby: "I don't see what that has to do with this. That's pretty thin gruel to deny" funding.

"It seems it would be even more antagonistic of us to say, 'OCMA, because you asked for this information, we're going to withhold your money for a month,' " he added later.

"I don't think we want to send a message that . . . we are going to retaliate if you pull public records," said Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

Moorlach sought a vote to pass the spending package with the exception of the funding for the doctors' group, and to vote on the doctors' portion when the board resumes session in September.

Supervisor Bill Campbell moved the request and Supervisor Pat Bates seconded it, but she withdrew her second after hearing from other supervisors, staff and lobbyists. Campbell then moved to pass the original package as recommended by staff, including the funding for the doctors. It passed unanimously.

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christian.berthelsen@latimes.com

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