Shea Wants to Cut I-CHIP Program; But Wastes Taxpayer Money on Feasibility Studies That Go Nowhere

One of the better political features in the OC Register is Teri Sforza’s Watchdog column that tracks government waste.  Each week, the Watchdog team asks an elected official to comment on something they believe is an example of government waste and this week, it was Christina Shea’s turn to answer the question. 

The Watchdog disclaimer: The Watchdog does not agree or disagree with the opinions expressed by said elected officials; we simply serve as the conduit between you, the people, and the folks you have elected to represent you. As the saying goes, the people get the government they deserve!

So Shea decides to go after a program developed by her Mayor opponent, Sukhee Kang.  The successful I-CHIP program that helps families in need get free healthcare for their kids.  The problem here is Shea misrepresents the program’s cost and benefits.  More on that in a second.  Here’s the excerpt:

Q. WATCHDOG: Christina Shea, if you could cut one thing from the budget, what would it be and why?

A. SHEA: “I would cut the I-CHP program (Irvine Children’s Health Program Initiative) proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Sukhee Kang. It costs about $200,000 a year, and pays consultants to go door-to-door to help lower-income people get their children signed up for almost-free healthcare from the state’s Healthy Families and other programs.

To spend money on this - in a year when we had to borrow $6.5 million from our reserves to balance the budget – just doesn’t seem right. And we might have to borrow again next year to balance the budget.

Healthy Families is one of the state’s great health care programs for lower income families. But people can go to a local agency in Santa Ana to fill out their own paperwork. Government, in my mind, should not be paying to have people filling out forms. I mean, when are we going to go out to our community and start fixing people’s washers and dryers? There has to be an element of personal responsibility. We shouldn’t be filling out their paperwork; this is the individual’s responsibility and would save the city $200,000. This is a waste of taxpayer money.”

The I-CHP program focuses on helping uninsured families navigate a complex healthcare system and helps them enroll uninsured children into available and funded state health insurance programs that many eligible people simply don’t know about.

more after the jump:

To implement the program, the City set aside $200,000 over 24 months period (that’s a two year period, not annually, hence Shea’s first misrepresentation).  And the city isn’t spending anything until they incur service from the Children’s Health Initiative of Orange County — which means the program might even cost less.

Shea’s opponent, Sukhee Kang, is helping to defray the cost to taxpayers by going out and brought in local health foundation grants from the Kaiser Permanente, Bristol Park Medical Center, Irvine Health Foundation and the Cancer Center of Irvine in excess of $75,000 to participate with the City’s excellent program.

Meanwhile, Shea’s good government blinders must have been off when she pushed through two feasibility studies that cost taxpayers more than $200,000 since being elected to the city council in 2002.  The studies looked into placing an overpass bridge in Irvine’s Grove neighborhood which has a lot of senior housing.  It was opposed by Grove residents from the start and the issue consequently died while yielding no results.  And of course, as Mayor, Shea paid Arthur Anderson (the people who did th ebooks at Enron) $75,000 for a feasibility study to place an NFL Team in a domed stadium at the Great Park site before the airport issue was even settled.  And Shea got a nice trip to Charlotte, NC to see the new NFL facilities there as part of a fact-finding (let’s call it a vacation), forgetting that there are NFL franchises in San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco and Phoenix.

If Shea wants to eliminate wasteful taxpayer dollars, perhaps more thought ought to go into the programs she needs feasibility studies for.

But to cut a program that helps needy families get free healthcare for their kids is just plain heartless.

  2 comments for “Shea Wants to Cut I-CHIP Program; But Wastes Taxpayer Money on Feasibility Studies That Go Nowhere

  1. September 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Your article is misleading in that is presents the view that there are many families in Irvine who need this service. As I recall, at least one private provider who does the same work as the ICHIPS taxpayer paid employees, testified that he had found no children in Irvine to sign up. It was clearly demonstrted that ICHIPS is a duplication of State, County, and private services already in place. ICHIPS is merely the toe in the door of another Larry Agran, government should be all things to all people program. If not checked, what will be next; taking health care for children out of the hands of their parents and turning it over to the Irvine Public Health Agency? At $200,000 the spending of taxpayer dollars is not only unneeded, but is outrageous, while the City of Irvine runs almost a 7 million dollar deficit budget. This is why, if elected to the Irvine City Council on November 4, I will be joining Christina Shea and Steven Choi in eliminating ICHIPS along with other wasteful spending. We will return to a Back to the Basics of good government philosophy. Critical services important to our citizens will be maintained or improved, with no tax increases. There will be no deficit spending and we will prepare for the economic decline coming in the future. I am confident that this is what our Irvine citizens want.

  2. Dan Chmielewski
    September 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Dr. Rodgers, more than half of Irvine’s residents live in apartments. Through my volunteer work with youth soccer and youth basketball, there are a number of children, many in single parent householdsm who could benefit from this program. My article is not misleading, but Ms. Shea’s claim that this program costs $200K a year is. It’s $200K over a 2 year period and Suhkee Kang has already helped secure grant money to offset the city’s obligations here. Why do so many healthcare providers this is program is a good idea? Because they get paid for services instead of stiffed by families who cannot pay.

    If I were you, being so concerned about wasting taxpayer dollars, I’d ask you not to see reimbursement of legal fees associated with frivolous lawsuits filed that you have little chance of winning.

    I also believe you owe Muslim-Americans in Irvine a huge apology for your statements on CAIR. “Fighting them in the streets?” It’s the sort of comment I expect men in white sheets to make.

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