Representatives with the 11-person Manatee Health Care Advisory Board told Manatee County commissioners Tuesday they need to change the makeup of their board to reflect the wisdom of a physician, an actual uninsured or under-insured person and of people of color in the community.
The health board, which has been meeting monthly for a year to come up with the best plan to care for the county’s uninsured and under-insured, said it wants one of the two new board members, or the candidate who would fill its currently open higher education post, to be Latino.
The health board has an African-American member, Mildred Isom, but no Latino representative.
Manatee County commissioners agreed Tuesday, voting 5-2 to direct the health board to make a formal resolution to go from an 11- to a 13-person board with a physician and a second needy consumer and that the 13 members always strongly reflect Manatee’s African-American and Latino communities.
I’m going to support this motion as long as a Latino and a black can serve on this board because we have a lot of work to do.
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith on health care board expansion
Commissioners Carol Whitmore, Betsy Benac, Robin DiSabatino, Priscilla Whisenant Trace and Charles Smith voted for a formal resolution while Vanessa Baugh and Stephen Jonsson voted against it.
“Everything that we set out to accomplish was accomplished,” said Stephen Hall, chairman of the Health Care Advisory Board said after the presentation to the commission. “We had hoped to impress upon the county commissioners that we needed more diversity among the board members and at the end of the day they gave us the direction to move forward on a resolution to take back to the commissioners to support not only having someone from the medically needy or indigent population but also adding a physician as well as someone from the Latino or African-American communities. We were just looking for some diversity.”
Baugh opposed adding a physician board member, which she said would constitute a real or perceived conflict of interest by the public if the physician ever received money from the county for treating indigent residents.
Hall responded to Baugh by saying that the board needs someone who understands how money flows in modern medicine and that the person doesn’t necessarily have to be treating indigent patients.
Two members of the public spoke out in favor of having a physician on the board.
“Our board feels that it is imperative that there be a practicing physician as a part of this health care advisory board,” said Valerie Vale, executive director of Manatee County Medical Society.
Katherine Edwards said the conflict of interest concerns are diminished because the health board is only advising commissioners.
“There will be emergency room physicians who will be working with indigent patients and probably getting some funding from the government,” Edwards said. “I don’t see why that should cause a conflict of interest for a board that simply has an advisory capacity to the commissioners.”
Commissioner Smith said he was supporting the resolution for now, but he might change his mind. He hoped the physician could be African-American, someone who understood the unique medical issues of African-Americans.
“I’m going to support this motion as long as a Latino and a black can serve on this board because we have a lot of work to do,” Smith said.