Health alliance may need state intervention to access tobacco funding |

Health alliance may need state intervention to access tobacco funding

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

PLACERVILLE – El Dorado County health care advocates will have to look to state intervention if they hope to see a major portion of the $47 million of tobacco money.

The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to review the County Health Alliance initiative for 30 days. The measure requests the public be allowed to vote on how the county should spend the Master Tobacco Settlement money.

Because of this decision, the board will miss the Aug. 11 deadline to put the measure on the ballot for this year’s election.

P.J. LoDuca, head of the Health Alliance, urged the board to place the initiative on the ballot and referred to Gov. Gray Davis’s recent decision to cut $13.9 million in health care, with tobacco settlement money to subsidize local health programs.

“I’m very disappointed,” LoDuca said. “I was really hoping when the board saw there were that many signatures gathered in that short of time they would feel compelled to follow the public’s will. It’s just another example of how they haven’t listened.”

Linda George, of Marshall Hospital, said she was also very irritated by the board’s disregard for the public’s wishes.

“You can ask questions and (the supervisors) don’t have to respond,” George said. “They don’t want to listen to the people. It’s obvious that the board has no confidence in the voters.”

LoDuca said the Alliance’s next step is to talk with its legal counsel about any options that remain in gaining public involvement in the allocation process.

Carol Fox, a single mother who did not represent any health organizations, addressed the board and requested it allow the initiative to be voted on in November.

Fox said she once worked at a job where she couldn’t afford medical insurance for her children, and she realized the need for the tobacco money to go to indigent health care.

“I’m proud to be a resident of El Dorado County, but that pride is quickly waning,” Fox said. “The working poor are the ones who need this money.”

No one against the health initiative spoke at the meeting.

Supervisor Mark Nielsen made the motion for the board to study the proposal and moved that 25 percent of each year’s tobacco money go toward health care until the initiative can be heard again in 2002.

“There are many ramifications to any action this board decides to take,” Nielsen said about his motion.

“Nielsen’s motions are always convoluted,” LoDuca said. “I think they are just throwing us crumbs.”

Two bills that would prohibit the county from spending the funds on anything other than health-related programs are in the state Senate Health Committee.

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