A leading health policy official and lobbyist for Virginia’s hospital association won’t be vacationing in France with top state health officials after all.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association announced Wednesday that one of its senior vice presidents, Christopher S. Bailey, had canceled his trip with Secretary of Health and Human Resources William A. Hazel Jr. and state Medicaid director Cindi B. Jones “in order to avoid any perception of impropriety.”
News of the vacation plan broke shortly before the second scheduled meeting of a new legislative commission that will oversee reforms of Virginia’s Medicaid program to determine whether they are sufficient to allow expansion of health coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians under the Affordable Care Act. The commission will continue to meet at least through the end of the year to monitor the progress of reforms and potentially authorize the Medicaid program’s expansion.
The hospital association played a major role in developing language in the state budget this year that created and empowered the commission. Hazel and Jones, as director of the Department of Medical Assistance Services, are leading the reform effort on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who approved the budget language.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch first reported Aug. 16 on the planned vacation by the three officials, who said they have become personal friends through their work relationships. Each planned to pay his or her own way and travel separately to France late next week for a shared vacation.
Laurens Sartoris, president of the hospital association, said Bailey “has chosen to cancel his trip” with the two officials and would be “spending time elsewhere” with his wife.
“In public life, there is no private life or action,” Sartoris said in a statement sent by email to The Times-Dispatch. “We strongly agree that those involved in public policy and government relations on behalf of hospitals and the health care field need to be transparent in all dealings with state government.”
“Maintaining our reputation for truth, accuracy, and straight-shooting are of paramount importance to us and all with whom we deal,” he said.