On Tuesday the Orange County Board of Supervisors placed politics before sound policy and took the unusual step of rejecting a request from the Orange County Health Care Agency to apply for $10 million in federal grant funding to provide health education targeting the reduction in county obesity and smoking rates. The grant funds were made available because of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which seeks to reduce the overall costs of health care by funding prevention and education campaigns that reduce the long term costs of preventable illness and disease.
Supervisors Pat Bates and John Moorlach, objected to applying for the funding because in their opinion the funds could be better spent to reduce the federal debt, or Medicare and Medicaid costs. “If you take the $10 million for 58 counties in California…” Bates said; “look at that pot of money that can go towards providing better reimbursements to our hospitals, better reimbursements to our doctors…”
So the BoS made a decision on funds that they have no power, or authority to redirect back to the federal government for strictly political purposes. None of them want to be associated with accepting federal funds that has already been allocated for these grants because it might show they voted to accept “Obamacare” funds.
Supervisor Janet Nguyen countered Bates comments saying “These funds will be spent for this program. Even if we want to give it back, other counties won’t.”
After Supervisor Bates brought up concerns over measurable objectives and accountability related to the expenditure of prevention education funds Supervisor Moorlach took a different track. “We have one government with grant writers and another government that has grant readers, Moorlach lamented. “Why don’t you just get rid of all the grant writers and readers and just give us the money?” (my note: so you can waste it on useless lawsuits? — Dan)
Grant applications and awards provide measurable objectives and accountability for the use of federal funds and make it easy to identify waste that conservative elected are so obsessed about; that shrink wrapped slab of $2 billion in cash that’s basically AWOL in Iraq is a good example why you need a grant application and accountability.
Absent a grant request that asks potential funding recipients how they propose to spend the money, and what objective they hope to achieve, there is have no accountability (who got the cash in Iraq?). The policy decision to spend money on health education to reduce preventable disease, and the related health care costs was made by Congress. Not applying for the money won’t cause the government to change it’s mind, and it certainly won’t reduce the local unfunded medical costs that these grant funds seek to curb. Senator Bernie Sanders recently took Senator Rand Paul to school over the issue that funds for preventative care (in this case for senior citizens) reduce more costly emergency room and nursing home care for seniors by allowing them to stay in their homes longer.
But Supervisor Moorlach wasn’t content with criticizing the federal grant process, he went a step off the edge of a cliff. “Tobacco and obesity, all righteous causes,” Moorlach complained. “But the media’s going to tell you what cigarette smoking does to you, and what poor eating and lack of exercise will do to you. I don’t think you need to pay to get that kind of information out.”
Moorlach should read the staff report on this. The report stated:
- Sixty percent of deaths in Orange County are a result of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, much of which is the result of preventable chronic disease.
- Nearly 60 percent of Orange County residents are overweight or obese.
- Obesity in Orange County results in more than an estimated $800 million in avoidable health care costs annually.
- The adult smoking rate in Orange County is 9%, but the youth rate has started to increase again and is at 14.6%. In some school districts it is much higher, most notably in Supervisor Bates District, Capistrano Unified has a rate of 22% (one in five kids smoke!) and Laguna Beach, it’s 17%.
Does the media report about the dangers of smoking and unheathy eating. But that pales in comparison to significant advertising promoting unhealthy eating choices like the 650 calorie Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Filet Sandwich. You cannot walk in to any convenience store and not see the glamorous pictures of people enjoying their cigarettes. It seems like every character in the movies puffs away too.
The final vote; Supervisor’s Campbell and Nguyen in favor of applying for the funds, with Supervisor’s Bates and Moorlach against. Supervisor Nelson had gone home ill, but would have likely voted against the grant since he was the one who first objected to the grant application last week. Three votes were needed to approve the application. Since Nelson has designs on Congress, don’t count on him voting to receive any funds associated with the President’s Healthcare Reform.
Because of partisan objections to the health insurance reform legislation that established the funding, the Orange County Board of Supervisors majority would rather pass up the opportunity to apply for some of our tax dollars to return to Orange County.
Again, another case of our electeds allowing tax dollars to leave the area and not come back. A victory of partisan politics over sound policy.