Kentucky advertises for Medicaid insurance proposals in Passport area

Kentucky advertises for Medicaid insurance proposals in Passport area

4:03 PM, Jun 20, 2012   |  
Tom Loftus
The Courier-Journal
FRANKFORT, KY. — Kentucky began the process this week of contracting with multiple companies to provide Medicaid services in the region that for the past 15 years has been served exclusively by Passport Health Plan.

On Tuesday the state began advertising for proposals from insurance companies to provide “managed care” services for Medicaid in Jefferson and 15 surrounding counties.

Bidders have until July 24 to respond.

Jill Midkiff, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the state intends to select at least two companies that will begin providing Medicaid services in the region beginning Jan. 1.

Last year federal officials decided Medicaid beneficiaries in the region must be given a choice of managed care organizations. They did not extend beyond this year a waiver that has allowed Passport to be the exclusive Medicaid provider in the region.

That action came amid Kentucky’s decision last year to contract with three companies that now compete to manage health care for Medicaid recipients in Kentucky’s other 104 counties.

Mark Carter, chief executive of Passport, said it will bid to continue serving the region.

“With the track record we have, we think we’ll be able to make a very competitive proposal,” Carter said.

Because the transition to managed care in the rest of the state has been marked with complaints by providers and patients alike, some are concerned about what the pending change will mean for the 171,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in the region.

“We don’t feel that having multiple managed care contracts really supports the efforts of quality improvement and member satisfaction over time,” said Jodi Mitchell, of Kentucky Voices for Health, a health-care advocacy coalition.

Mitchell said that the federal government’s requirement of choice of managed care organizations may result in less choice of providers for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Currently a Medicaid beneficiary in the region can go to any provider because all work with Passport. “I’m not so sure that will be the same situation when you bring these for-profit companies in,” Mitchell said.

Passport was sharply criticized in late 2010 in a report by then-Auditor Crit Luallen that revealed wasteful spending and improper transfers of profits to the provider groups represented on its board. Passport responded by instituting reforms, restructuring its board and replacing all of its executives with a new team headed by Carter.

Reporter Tom Loftus can be reached at (502) 875-5136.