The Center for Medicaid Excellence will focus on improving care provided to Medicaid recipients. | Courtesy of Evolent Health and Passport Health Plan

The Center for Medicaid Excellence will focus on improving care provided to Medicaid recipients. | Courtesy of Evolent Health and Passport Health Plan

If a new Evolent Health partnership is successful in streamlining and improving care for Medicaid patients in Kentucky, the Arlington, Va.-based health care consulting company plans to expand into other states.

Evolent Health and Louisville-based not-for-profit Medicaid provider Passport Health Plan have joined forces to create the Medicaid Center of Excellence, which for now will be co-located at Passport’s headquarters at Commerce Crossings business park off Preston Highway. Leaders with both organizations touted the partnership as a potential model for the rest of the United States.

“We need a better way to engage (Medicaid) patients and improve outcomes,” said Frank Williams, Evolent’s CEO. “The idea behind launching the Medicaid Center of Excellence is that we can take all that Passport has built and developed, a lot of what Evolent has developed in terms of technology, in terms of know-how, bring those two things together, and create a model that can vastly improve Medicaid care for others across the country.”

The center will provide administrative support for Passport Health users and implement a health performance management platform created by Evolent called Identifi to improve quality of service. Identifi gathers information about Medicaid recipients to target individuals who may be at risk for various health complications or patients who might benefit from health-related programs, such as a diabetes coaching program, Williams said.

“(Identifi) really serves as an air traffic control system and helps to manage the population across a pretty disparate set of providers,” he said. “We don’t have great information flow in health care.”

Through the partnership, Evolent will invest $41.7 million in Louisville and create 647 jobs that pay an average of $38 an hour. Passport Health CEO Mark Carter fully expects the nonprofit to add new jobs as well. Though, he said it is too early to say how many jobs Passport Health may add to its existing 500 positions as a result of the partnership, which took effect Feb. 1 and will last for at least 10 years.

“We anticipate significant growth,” Carter said.

Passport Health will benefit from the arrangement beyond simply improving care for the 280,000 people to whom it administers Medicaid benefits. The not-for-profit now owns nearly 1.1 million in Class A common stock in Evolent, a $15 million value, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

As a “material” shareholder, Carter said, Passport Health will benefit as Evolent grows and creates similar partnerships with Medicaid providers in other states.

Evolent partnered with Passport Health, Williams said, because it offers the top-rated plan in the state for Medicaid recipients and brings together multiple Medicaid providers within the state.

Louisville also has “a very strong market for experienced people in health care, so that definitely factored into the equation,” Williams said when asked if the presence of health care company Humana affected Evolent’s decision.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s campaign calls to reverse the state’s Medicaid expansion — something he has since backed away from — did not impact Evolent’s decision, said Williams, who called the company politically agnostic.

“Whichever way the state goes politically, you still have a population that needs to be cared for,” he said. “How can we create better outcomes, engage patients in their health and do that at a lower cost? That is a lot of what we are about.”

No timeline was provided for when Evolent plans to expand into other states, but at least 20 states fit Evolent’s criteria.

“We’re looking at states where there is limited penetration of provider-led Medicaid plans,” Evolent president Seth Blackley said, adding that provider-led plans such as those offered by Passport Health provide higher quality care at a lower cost.

Evolent received preliminary approval from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority last week for up to $10 million in state and local tax incentives tied to the partnership.

The state will give Evolent a 3 percent tax break, and Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government will waive 1 percent of its 1.45 percent occupational tax — a tax levied based on an employee’s gross wage.

“That is the most we can give,” said Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of the city’s economic development arm Louisville Forward, talking about Louisville’s contribution.

The partnership with Evolent demonstrates how healthy the Louisville workforce and Passport Health’s programs are, she said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration has been working to attract more jobs in the areas of advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, business services, lifelong aging and wellness, and logistics. The mayor refers to each industry as a business cluster.

“Our economic development strategy is to focus on some clusters where we feel we are either already the best in the world or we can be the best in the world,” Fischer said. The Evolent-Passport Health partnership “further positions us as a place in the country for good quality of life (and) good jobs.”