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Baptist Healthcare Agrees to $8.9 Million Medicare Settlement

The owner or operator of six Kentucky hospitals has agreed to pay $8.9 million for claims improperly billed to Medicare.

The U.S. attorneys’ offices in Louisville and Lexington announced the settlement Thursday with Baptist Healthcare Systems Inc. and Hardin Memorial Hospital, under management of Baptist Healthcare.

Baptist East in Louisville was among the hospitals involved, along with facilities in Paducah, La Grange, Lexington and Corbin.

Neither Baptist Healthcare nor Hardin Memorial immediately returned calls seeking comment Thursday. The U.S. attorneys’ offices statements say Baptist Healthcare and Hardin Memorial made no admission of liability in agreeing to the settlement and that no issues of quality of patient care were involved.

From the Associated Press

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Kentucky, Indiana Seek To Intervene In Bridges Suit

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation have asked to intervene in a lawsuit filed by two groups over the Ohio River Bridges Project.

The groups—River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation—filed suit against the Federal Highway Administration claiming it didn’t follow federal law when it approved the project in 2003.

Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said the motion to intervene was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Louisville because the lawsuit “threatens to delay the project and drive up costs.”

River Fields and the National Trust filed the lawsuit against the FHWA in September 2009.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation have participated in legal proceedings related to the case but have not been formal parties.

The suit also prompted the creation of Kentuckians for Progress, which has mounted a public campaign aimed at pressuring the groups to drop the litigation. It’s also seeking to join the lawsuit and dismantle it.

(Information for this story also came from the Associated Press)

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Revenue Commission Approves Water Company Loan, Council To Vote Thursday

The Louisville Revenue Commission has given the city permission to borrow $10 million from the Water Company.

The city owns the Water Company and regularly receives dividends from the company’s profits. The loan will collect 2% interest, and the Water Company will retain a portion of the dividend for the next eight years as repayment.

The money will be used to pay a $14 million settlement with a group of underpaid firefighters. The city bonded a larger payment in a similar case last year, but the Water Company loan will collect less interest. Chief Financial Officer Steve Rowland says it’s a good deal, but it’s not likely to be repeated.

“We are not, Metro Government is not, looking at the Water Company as a source of borrowing on a continuing basis. This is a one-time event. We don’t anticipate asking for this again,” he says.

The remainder of the settlement will be paid out of the city’s $65 million rainy day fund. The Metro Council must approve the payments. It’s expected to do so Thursday.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Firefighter Settlement Payments Unlikely To Reignite City/County Feud

To finance a legal settlement with firefighters, Mayor Greg Fischer has proposed taking two steps his predecessor didn’t, with a result that some leaders say will be less divisive for the city.

The city owes about $14 million to a group of firefighters who were underpaid for overtime for years. Fischer has asked the council to let him borrow $10 million from the Water Company and pay the rest out of the city’s nearly $65 million rainy day fund. Both accounts would be repaid over the following years.

Last year, the council issued $35 million in bonds to finance a similar settlement. Since the firefighters were underpaid by the old city before merger, many suburban residents didn’t think their tax dollars should go to the settlement. But the city owns the Water Company, and Metro Councilman Kevin Kramer the new settlement will not likely be very controversial.

“Bringing the Water Company in is a tremendous asset this city brought. So borrowing against a city asset should diminish some of that debate/discussion about the urban versus suburban. I don’t get a sense this time that that is really going to come back up as an issue,” he says, adding that he’s pleased with the idea, “I think it was refreshing to see that [Fischer] was willing to consider a suggestion made by folks on the council. [Last year] we requested/required of Mayor Abramson that he would send a letter to the Water Company asking them to contribute. The letter that he sent over…it really wasn’t a very compelling letter.”

Council members also suggested tapping the rainy day fund last year. The Board of Water Works will vote on the loan Tuesday. The council will vote on it Thursday.

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Local News

SWAT Team Protocols Again Challenged in Court

by Stephanie Crosby

For the second time in four months, a lawsuit has been filed challenging the protocols of Louisville’s SWAT team. A lawsuit filed today in Jefferson Circuit Court alleges Louisville police acted improperly in a SWAT team raid at a strip club, Phat’s Bar and Grill, formerly of West Broadway, while searching for evidence on possible prostitution and drug charges.

The plaintiffs’ co-counsel, Fox deMoisey, says the lawsuit alleges several improper actions, such as unreasonably restraining employees, confiscating $30,000, and attempting to turn off security cameras.

He says the larger question of the suit, though, is if the actions of SWAT teams in general are legal.

“The problem is, like any governmental function, there’s a proper function to this, there are times when SWAT teams are appropriate to be utilized,” says deMoisey, “but they’re being way over-utilized and they’re being introduced in circumstances that do not warrant that kind of force.”

Another part of the suit claims LMPD failed to properly train their officers on the SWAT team. LMPD has not responded to calls for comment.

A separate lawsuit filed in March also alleges the SWAT acted too severely in a raid in June of 2007 in Okolona.

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Local News

Cumberlands Lawsuit Argued in Kentucky Supreme Court

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

A ruling is not expected for several weeks from the Kentucky Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging the use of state tax dollars to build a pharmacy school on a Baptist college campus.

Attorney Kimberlee Colby, arguing for the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, says the school will help reduce a shortage of pharmacists in Kentucky.

“In Ephron, it was a shortage of hospitals that triggered the General Assembly’s action and in this case it is a shortage of pharmacists,” said Colby.

That drew this response from Attorney David Tachau, arguing for opponents of the expenditure.

“There is absolutely no evidence in the trial court, that the pharmacy school appropriations in this case were enacted for any health and welfare purpose, much less to address an alleged shortage of pharmacists,” said Tachau.

A lower court judge ruled the expenditure violates a constitutional prohibition against public education money being spent on any “church, sectarian or denominational school.”

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Abramson Shocked at Bridges Lawsuit

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson says a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. last week could delay work on the $4-billion dollar Ohio River Bridges Project.

The local conservation group River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed the suit against the Federal Highway Administration. They claim the federal government violated environmental and transportation laws in the planning of the project.

Abramson says it’s an unexpected hitch in the project.

“To tell you the truth, I was really shocked,” says Abramson. “I mean, there’s been some discussion over the years since the Record of Decision was submitted but it’s been five, six years, and to think this move would take place two days before the statute of limitations had run… I really thought we were beyond this.”

Two months ago, governors from both Kentucky and Indiana joined Abramson in announcing the formation of a bi-state authority to oversee the construction of the bridges.

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Hearing Tomorrow in JCPS Student Assignment Case

A hearing is set for tomorrow afternoon in federal court in Louisville regarding a challenge to Jefferson County Public Schools’ student assignment plan.

Last week, attorney Teddy Gordon filed a request for an injunction on behalf of two plaintiffs whose children were seeking entrance to Stopher Elementary school as kindergarteners. Gordon wants the plan halted, and new assignments made before the start of school on the 13th.

Gordon says JCPS claims kindergarteners are exempt from the plan but is assigning them as it would older students.

“If kindergarten students are exempt, number one, why are they still being bused?,” says Gordon, “and number two, who chose the 124 spots at Stopher Elementary?”

But JCPS Student Assignment Director Pat Todd says kindergarteners aren’t exempt from the plan. She says they’re only exempt from the district’s diversity guidelines.

“There is one student assignment plan,” says Todd. “One component of that applies to elementary schools, grades K-5. And all of the strategies and components apply to all grades, and only the issue of the diversity guideline does not apply at the kindergarten level.”

Gordon’s clients are of Indian and Chinese descent.  He claims they were assigned based solely on race, which would violate the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Meredith vs. the Jefferson County Board of Education.

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Local News

Lawsuit Filed Against KHSAA Rule

The man who successfully argued a case against the Jefferson County School District’s student assignment plan before the U.S. Supreme Court filed a lawsuit today against the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.  The suit’s plaintiff is a student at Presentation Academy.

Attorney Ted Gordon filed the lawsuit in Jefferson Circuit Court. It claims a newly-implemented KHSAA rule is “unfair, discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious”.

The rule is aimed at preventing non-public schools from recruiting athletes from public schools by offering to pay part of the tuition to the private school.

The plaintiff attends Presentation Academy, and has received over 25-percent of her tuition in financial aid due to high academic achievement. But because of that, under the new rule, she isn’t allowed to participate in track or volleyball.

The suit seeks to have the rule overturned, and the student allowed to participate in high school sports.

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River Fields Files Second Lawsuit Over Harrods Creek Bridge

A second lawsuit has been filed by the River Fields conservation group over the closing of the Harrods Creek Bridge.

The group has already sued to stop the city from rebuilding and widening the one lane span. Now it has filed a second suit, claiming the Coast Guard did not properly review the city’s plans for the project.

The bridge was deemed unsafe by the state and closed last year. River Fields’ Attorney Don Cox says the group has done its own study on the bridge and says the construction project is unnecessary.

“Our engineer has indicated the bridge is as sound today as it was the day it was built. Some work needs to be done on the railings to bring them up to snuff and the bridge itself needs to be repaved,” he says.

The city has already awarded a $2.3 million contract to rebuild and widen the bridge. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office says the project will continue.