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Andrew Do’s Appointment Questions Role of Politics in Healthcare

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Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do’s recent leadership decisions for CalOptima have raised concerns about the effective management of OC’s healthcare.  

Do appointed his deputy chief of staff, Veronica Carpenter, to Chief of Staff at CalOptima. This newly created position at CalOptima accumulates a $282,000 salary plus benefits. Carpenter was given the position after less than a year’s worth of experience in healthcare administration.

CalOptima is not only Orange County’s largest health insurer, but also primarily manages the public health fund of low-income residents. In total, CalOptima covers a range of 850,000 people with aims to localize federal healthcare. 

Paul Yost, who served as CalOptima’s chairman from 2017 to mid-2020, has been vocal about his disapproval towards CalOptima’s management. 

“To me it’s very dangerous. I don’t think the patients in Orange County are going to be well served by that decision,” Yost commented in an interview with the Voice of OC on Carpenter’s recruitment.

CalOptima’s recruitment process for Carpenter’s position was, in the opinion of Yost, irregular. Carpenter’s recruitment process did not utilize a national search firm.  

Do has held his position as CalOptima’s chairman since last year after a previously failed run in 2017. Prior to his chairmanship, Do served as chief of staff under state Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen. 

Nguyen’s history with CalOptima in 2011 was marked by controversy after she approved a rewrite of CalOptima’s governing rules from a lobbyist who assisted in her fundraising. 

In a report issued by Orange County’s Grand Jury, Nguyen was similarly accused of hiring board members with a lack of background in healthcare. The jury continued with an indication that the consequences of this resulted in the supervisors’ failure to “take an active role in preserving (CalOptima) an entity playing a vital role in the healthcare needs of the county’s young, disabled, low income and senior residents.” 

In the backlash of this lobbying, decision-making was said to have been taken away from beneficiaries and instead placed in the hands of health care providers. 

It is this sort of politicization that causes worry for the former CalOptima’s chairman, Ed Kacic.

“I have a concern when an elected official potentially gets too much influence at CalOptima,” Kacic said in an interview.  

Erin Boshers is a City News Staff Writer for the winter 2022 quarter. She can be reached at eboshers@uci.edu.