Board Rejection of Health Care Grant Funding Request Shortsighted

The County of Orange County Mission Statement, approved by the Board of Supervisors reads: “Making Orange County a safe, healthy, and fulfilling place to live, work, and play, today and for generations to come, by providing outstanding, cost-effective regional public services.” On February 28th the Board, led by Chairman John Moorlach, failed miserably in reaching towards their stated goal.

The board rejected a request from the Health Care Agency (HCA) to apply for a $40,000 federally funded grant under the National Public Health Improvement Initiative (NPHII). The initiative strives to systematically increase health departments’ capacity to meet national public health standards.  In order to reach this goal, NPHII is working with local health departments to identify best or promising practices in key areas including public health policy.

HCA would have used these funds to develop a model worksite wellness policy.  The worksite wellness policy would be piloted at HCA creating tool kits and disseminating lessons learned to other governmental worksites.  “The County, as one of the largest employers within Orange County, has the opportunity to lead the way in promoting worksite wellness,” the staff report said.  This new policy would integrate existing policies as well as establish a comprehensive and coordinated approach including promotional activities.  No new positions and no matching funds from the county would have been required for the grant.

OC Supervisor John Moorlach – Photo: Chris Prevatt

Supervisor Moorlach pulled the request for further discussion, objecting because the funding for the grant came as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

“I’m taking the posture that if it’s anything to do with, I’ll use the term ObamaCare, I’m going to be a ‘no’,” board Chairman John Moorlach said during the board meeting.

OC Register editorial writer Brian Calle cheered Chairman Moorlach’s actions in a blog post and editorial.

“It was a bold decision that more local elected officials throughout the state and country should emulate,” Calle wrote. “It sends a message to President Barack Obama and his administration: We do not want nationalized health care, and we will not help implement it.”

In June 2011 the Board rejected a similar grant application from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, if awarded, would have provided as much as $10 million ($2 million a year for five years) to support community activities that prevent chronic diseases and reduce health consequences of chronic diseases such as cardio vascular disease, stroke and respiratory diseases.

The Community Transformation Grants, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were also authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The fund, like the funds provided under the NPHII, does not provide for the expansion of health insurance or health care coverage. The purpose is to expand and sustain the necessary capacity to prevent disease, detect it early, manage conditions before they become severe, and provide states and communities the resources they need to promote healthy living. The Orange County application proposed to use the available funding to improve health behaviors and reduce chronic disease in Orange County.

Both Chairman Moorlach and Calle are wrong in their analysis, and have taken a shortsighted view, of funding allocated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A major portion of the Act was funding for prevention programs to reduce the overall cost of health care in the United States. These programs have nothing to do with what they call ObamaCare, other than the fact that the overall cost reductions would help offset the costs of implementing the program.

Chairman Moorlach wrote in an email:

How do I, in good conscience, take money from a government that is structurally bankrupt?  How do I, also in good conscience, take money from a program that I believe is destined to fail?  Socialized medicine will fail, and will fail miserably.  When do grant and funding recipients collectively stand up and say, “Don’t make us complicit in your poor fiscal management!”

If Chairman Moorlach’s flawed logic is indeed the new policy of the board majority then the county has a really big problem. Hundreds of millions of dollars come to Orange County through federal and state grants and programs. By Moorlach’s standards both the state and federal governments are “structurally bankrupt” and fiscally mismanaged. Therefore to be consistent with his “fiscally responsible” principles, all Federal and state grants should be rejected. That is not however what Moorlach proposes. He only wishes to reject funds that have received funding through a single piece of legislation because he has an ideological objection to some provisions of that legislation.

Like his successful effort to prevent any health care funding for community clinics from supporting women’s health care services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics in Orange County, because that agency also provides access to reproductive health care services he objects to, Supervisor Moorlach has placed his political ideology above the mission of the County of Orange and the needs of the people he is supposed to serve.

Mr. Magoo couldn’t be as shortsighted as Moorlach and his colleagues, Supervisors Nelson and Bates. Brian Calle and the OC Register—well they just can’t accept the fact that there is a role for the government in providing for the general welfare of the people.

  2 comments for “Board Rejection of Health Care Grant Funding Request Shortsighted

  1. March 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Well, hey, it’s free money, right? Just ask Janet Nguyen.

    The board was right on several levels for rejecting this grant. I could better see a grant that funded a program for wellness in the community rather than allow a department to pad their budget with rhetorical, self-serving programs. This is one item the Gang of Five got right.

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