Bowser fires official who took job at health insurer after Medicaid procurement


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[MM Curator Summary]: The mayor did the right thing and fired a staff member who announced he was going to work for one of the winning MCOs.


D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) fired the interim director of her administration’s Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs this week. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

A week after the D.C. Council awarded multibillion-dollar contracts for insuring D.C.’s Medicaid patients to three insurers, seeming to finally end a years-long struggle to right the city’s Medicaid system after court and council fights, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has called for a new ethics investigation related to the recently completed procurement.

Bowser announced this week that she fired the interim director of her administration’s Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs (OPLA) after he announced he took a new job with the parent company of one of the three insurers just awarded a lucrative Medicaid contract. Bowser (D) referred him to the city’s ethics board and inspector general.

Bryan Hum was promoted in February to the role at the agency, which is tasked with policy analysis and developing Bowser’s legislative agenda. Bowser on Tuesday indicated that Hum had worked on the contracts but said he was not involved in negotiations or deciding on them.

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In an Oct. 23 letter to the city’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability as well as D.C. Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas, Bowser said Hum had given his two-week notice to the city two days earlier, saying he would be joining Elevance Health, the parent company of Amerigroup. Earlier that week, the D.C. Council voted to award the city’s Medicaid contracts to Amerigroup, MedStar and AmeriHealth after a contentious, years-long procurement process.

Tony Felts, a spokesman for Amerigroup, said Hum applied for the job in response to a public job posting in August — after D.C.’s Office of Contracting and Procurement had already made its decision on awarding the Medicaid contracts, though the contracts had not yet come before the council for approval.

The city’s ethics rules restrict officials from obtaining future employment that overlaps with their responsibilities in government; two years ago, for example, a high-level Bowser appointee was fined $2,500 for taking a job at Howard University after negotiating a tax break for the school in his city position.

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Bowser said Hum did not recuse himself from any work related to the Medicaid contracts before announcing his new position.

“While he is not a procurement official engaged in the evaluation or negotiation of contracts, Mr. Hum, in the course of his duties in transmitting and shepherding contracts to and through the Council, may be privy to non-public information,” Bowser wrote, while referring the matter to the agencies.

Hum began working in the Bowser administration in 2018 and held various roles with OPLA before he was named interim director. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

CareFirst, an insurance company that lost its bid to win one of the Medicaid contracts after lobbying the D.C. Council and advertising on social media in an attempt to persuade council members that Amerigroup was unsuitable, sent a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday saying that the contracts should not move forward in light of the request for an investigation into Hum’s conduct.

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“We appreciate Mayor Bowser’s call for an investigation by the Inspector General and urge the District to halt the contracting process until officials and the public have a full understanding of the extent of Mr. Hum’s involvement in the procurement and approval of these contracts,” CareFirst spokeswoman Jen Presswood wrote.

Bowser’s spokesperson declined to comment on the call to halt the procurement.

At a news conference Tuesday, Bowser said she “won’t tolerate people who don’t follow ethics rules, even upon their exit.”

“People can go onto other jobs, but that’s why we have [the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability] — you can call BEGA and get advice on how you should proceed,” Bowser said. “But it should be obvious to everyone that you can’t be working on one matter while at the same time accepting an employment offer — especially relating to a contract that you have worked on.”


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