Gov. Matt Bevin | Screenshot via the governor’s Facebook page

Gov. Matt Bevin and top members of his administration met with state legislators and Louisville stakeholders Tuesday afternoon to discuss the future of embattled Passport Health Plan, which may face insolvency in a matter of months.

State Sen. Gerald Neal, who organized the meeting, said the governor “expressed that he would rather get this resolved.”

However, Neal said, “I think he doubts that it can get resolved … because of the fiscal situation with Passport.”

State Sen. Gerald Neal, D-33.

Neal told Insider Tuesday evening that he was about to participate in a conference call with nearly 20 people to discuss the Passport matter and that another meeting with state leaders would take place in Frankfort this week.

The state senator, a Democrat who represents District 33, which covers northwestern Louisville, said the discussions would culminate in a public meeting in Louisville in which state and local officials inform Louisvillians about Passport’s future and how they would be affected.

Neal said he expects the governor to attend that meeting. The time, date and location of the meeting have yet to be determined, though Neal said it could be hosted at a local high school or on the University of Louisville campus.

Passport is one of five organizations in Kentucky that manage Medicaid benefits. Medicaid is a mostly federally funded health insurance program primarily for the poor, pregnant women and people with disabilities. The state last summer changed the way that it distributes the Medicaid dollars, which reduced payments to Passport, which has more than 300,000 customers, about two-thirds of whom live in the Louisville area.

Passport’s leaders have said that unless the state changes the way it distributes the dollars, the nonprofit will become insolvent within months. In a new report this week, Passport said it lost $122 million last year, much more than previously projected. The nonprofit has sued the state to restore the previous disbursement rates.

Health care experts have told Insider that they fear Passport’s insolvency could disrupt care for Medicaid beneficiaries and undermine their long-term health prospects.

The idle construction site of Passport Health Plan’s proposed new headquarters at 18th Street and West Broadway. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Passport’s fiscal problems had prompted the nonprofit on Feb. 22 to halt work on its $87 million planned headquarters at 18th Street and West Broadway. The move dismayed community leaders, who had said that they hoped the project would stimulate the economy and inhibit further social degradation in an underserved part of the city.

At a gathering on Monday, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., and others called for the state to help avert Passport’s impending insolvency. Bevin, a Republican, had called Monday’s meeting “political theater,” according to local media.

Neal told Insider Tuesday evening that beyond Bevin and administration officials, Tuesday afternoon’s meeting was attended by Yarmuth’s district director Nicole Yates and Louisville Deputy Mayor Ellen Hesen.

Neal said the parties had “a very frank exchange,” while Woody Maglinger, the governor’s deputy communications director told Insider via email that the participants had “a productive conversation centered around the mutual concern for the health and well-being of Passport’s 300,000+ customers in Kentucky.”

Maglinger said Bevin and top administration officials agreed to the meeting “to have a fact-based discussion about Passport and the Medicaid rate-setting process.”

Passport officials have said that the state has made distribution changes capriciously to single out Passport, but Adam Meier, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, had told Insider on Monday that the rates are set through a data-driven process and that Passport’s fiscal problems have causes other than the state’s actions.

Neal said that despite the acrimony, he hoped the parties could reach a mutually acceptable solution. Passport officials did not participate in Tuesday’s discussion. and Neal said they may opt out of future meetings because of the pending lawsuit.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.