Medicaid manager Passport gives $25,000 to Democratic group that has given heavily to committee backing Conway for governor

Passport Health Plan, which manages Medicaid care for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians, gave $25,000 this year to the Democratic Governors Association, “which already this year has given $600,000 to a Democratic super PAC
supporting the election of Attorney General Jack Conway as governor,” Tom Loftus reports for The Courier-Journal.

“Beshear’s
office and Passport Chief Executive Mark Carter both said the $25,000
was not a political contribution but a sponsorship for a one-day policy
conference co-hosted by the DGA in Louisville last spring,” Loftus reports. “But Senate Republican Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown said, ‘Of
course the DGA wanted to do a, quote unquote, policy conference in
Louisville because Kentucky is the site of the only competitive
governor’s race in the country this year.'” Passport is based in Louisville.

Loftus notes that the money was requested by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who objected in 2010 to Passport’s “spending of Medicaid funds on things like lobbying,
travel, public relations, donations and sponsorships.” Beshear said it should “cease spending
a single taxpayer dollar that is not absolutely necessary to provide
quality health-care services to Medicaid-eligible recipients.”

Thayer said the donation was a political contribution because the DGA exists to elect Democratic governors, as it says on its website. “An agenda shows the conference involved three one-hour policy
discussions on the morning of May 21 at the Galt House,” Loftus reports. “Participants
included Beshear, Conway and a few other Democratic governors and
Democratic candidates for governor from other states.” No attendance numbers were given.

In 2010, then-state Auditor Crit Luallen “questioned more than $423,000 in sponsorships and donations — many of
which did not seem to advance Passport’s mission of improving the health
care of Medicaid recipients. Luallen’s report resulted in sweeping reforms,” Loftus writes. “Carter said criticism of spending on sponsorships was valid in 2010 when
Passport had an exclusive state contract to manage Medicaid in the
Louisville region,” but now it has to “compete with four other, very
large, for-profit plans,” Carter said. “Things that are inappropriate
when you area sole-source contractor, like sponsorships, are almost
necessities to be able to compete with Humana, Anthem and others.”

Loftus reports, “Two of the big private insurance companies that hold managed care
contracts in Kentucky — which unlike Passport function in many states
and offer products other beyond Medicaid managed care — are listed in
the report as giving more to the DGA during the first half of this year:
Humana, of Louisville, is listed as having given $80,000; Anthem, of
Cincinnati, gave $325,000.”

Passport expanded its operations after Beshear used federal health-reform money to expand eligibility for Medicaid, increasing the program’s rolls by half. Conway supports the expansion but Republican candidate Matt Bevin says it needs to be scaled back. The reform law calls for the state to start paying 5 percent of the expansion cost in 2017, rising to the law’s limit of 10 percent in 2020. Beshear, citing a state-funded study; says the expansion will pay for itself; Bevin scoffs at that.

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