Lawmaker questions leadership and millions of Passport spending

State Sen. Tim Shaughnessy (D-Jefferson)
State Sen. Tim Shaughnessy (D-Jefferson)
State Auditor Crit Luallen
State Auditor Crit Luallen

By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Kentucky state senator is calling for new leadership for the Passport Health Plan. It's a non-profit that was formed at the state's request to manage medicaid in the Louisville area, but a scathing audit shows there are tens of millions of dollars going back to a few select partners.

Sen. Tim Shaughnessy (D-Jefferson) requested the audit. He says University Hospital is getting too much and that extra money isn't going where it was supposed to.

"It's our fault," said Shaughnessy. "It's our responsibility."

Shaughnessy is calling on the legislature to do something about Passport and wants to change its leadership, including, Larry Cook, the CEO and Chairman of the Board.

"Certainly Larry Cook's leadership in this has been called into question to a point where it can't be repaired," said Shaughnessy.

Questions that come out of the 229 page audit released on Nov. 9. The report details hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on lavish travel and expensive meals, but Shaughnessy says the real problem is the millions of excess dollars going back to the original partners.

"They have moved away from their mission on service and they focus too much on money and money that they've directed back to themselves," said Shaughnessy.

State and federal tax dollars fund Passport. The program got more than it used and ended up with an excess of $30 million between 2007-2009. Some went to University Hospital and the audit shows the money went into the general fund but it was not documented how it was spent after that.

"I personally believe that passport should give those funds back," said Shaughnessy. "Those funds were intended for the medical care of the sick children and the frail elderly, not to be distributed at the general fund of any institution, especially a state university."

Auditor Crit Luallen said passport needs to be more transparent and is running itself like a business.

"It's our position that this is a public agency and as such should be accountable to the taxpayers," said Luallen after the audit was released.

A spokesperson for Luallen said there was documentation that shows they spent as much money if not more on indigent care as was brought back to the university, but there's no way of tracking what specifically happened to the excess passport money.

Spokespersons for both the University of Louisville and University Hospital directed us to Passport. Vice President of Public Affairs, Jill Bell, has not returned our phone call.

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