Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente acknowledged to The Baltimore Sun that it paid Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh — who resigned from her position on Thursday — $114,000 for her Healthy Holly children’s book series from 2015 to 2018.
The payments overlapped over a period when Kaiser Permanente was negotiating a lucrative contract from the city of Baltimore. Pugh became mayor in 2016, and in 2017, the city’s spending board, which Pugh sat on and controlled, awarded the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States a $48 million contract to provide insurance to city employees, according to the Sun.
Kaiser did not respond to a call or email request for comment. And it was not the only healthcare organization that bought Pugh’s books while benefiting in some form. University of Maryland Medical System paid $500,000 to Pugh to purchase the books, which were self-published, per the Sun. The books seek to promote exercise and healthy eating among young children.
The relationship between UMMS and Pugh began in 2011, when she was a state senator and oversaw issues involving UMMS. During her time as a senator, she pushed for bills to benefit Maryland hospitals including UMMS. Pugh also served on UMMS’ board, but resigned in March and returned $100,000, according to the Associated Press.
In April, UMMS president and CEO Robert Chrencik resigned from his post after the Sun reported that approximately one-third of the system’s board members received compensation from UMMS through contracts with their businesses.
A UMMS spokesman said the system doesn’t have a comment on Pugh’s resignation from her role as mayor.
“The Mayor’s future is her personal decision, one which we respect. Ms. Pugh resigned from the UMMS Board on March 18. UMMS provided funds to Healthy Holly LLC for books which were intended for Baltimore’s school children. It has been widely reported that other organizations provided funding to Healthy Holly as well,” the spokesman wrote in an email.
Additionally, a nonprofit called Associated Black Charities told the Sun it gathered $87,180 from five organizations to buy and distribute copies of the Healthy Holly books. Baltimore-based insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield confirmed to the newspaper that it gave Associated Black Charities $14,500 to pay for the books. The payer also has a $522 million contract to provide insurance to city government employees, according to the Sun.
When reached via email, CareFirst said it does not have a comment on its relationship to the city of Baltimore or on Pugh’s resignation.
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