More Fireworks Over Executive Salaries at UofL.

The matter of compensation to UofL President James Ramsey that tipped public opinion of the University in a more critical direction is back in the news.  Both Chris Otts of WDRB and Andrew Wolfson of the Courier-Journal reported yesterday on the release by the University of Louisville Foundation of its Form 990 Federal Tax Return for 2014.  The University knew it would not be pretty and began to prepare the way with letters to supporters and posts to various social media.  Pretty it was not– except for Dr. Ramsey and his senior supportive staff.  Numbers taken directly from the compensation pages of the return listed President Ramsey’s salary from the Foundation alone as $2,428,886 with additional benefits of $362,500.  His compensation included tax “gross-ups” to make up for any personal income tax he would have to pay.  A great deal if you can get it, but not offered to most faculty or staff!

Even before the ink hit the page, Foundation Chairman and former UofL Trustee Chairman Robert Hughes broadcast an email to the UofL world at large highly critical of Mr. Otts.  He accused Mr. Otts him of missing the point, vastly overstating Dr. Ramsey’s salary, having an agenda, and misleading the public with fairy tales.  (I am accused of much of the same by the University’s internet trolls.) In my experience,  Mr. Otts and Mr. Wolfson are both knowledgeable and careful reporters.  If they have an agenda, it is in providing accurate and relevant information to their public. Continue reading “More Fireworks Over Executive Salaries at UofL.”

No Progress in Reconstituting Functioning UofL Board of Trustees.

I was traveling out of the country the first part of this month.  When I returned, I expected, or more perhaps accurately hoped that some progress has been made in restoring the governance and oversight responsibilities of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.  Unfortunately, last week the Board was forced to meet once again for “informational” purposes only.  Alas, as far as I am able to determine, nothing has come out of the Governor’s Office or the newly constituted Governor’s Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee indicating an intention to resolve in a timely manner the deadlock that has placed the Board in limbo.  I can find no required public notice that a meeting of the Nominating Committee has been scheduled.  An email inquiry yesterday morning to the Governor’s office has not been answered, nor was a phone message earlier in the month requesting notice of a date.

Based on what I have observed, I must assume Governor Bevin’s higher priority is to protect an embattled and increasingly desperate-appearing President James Ramsey.  By delaying the appointment of an African-American trustee further, Governor Bevin will have an opportunity to appoint a larger and controlling block of additional trustees as existing terms of office expire thus effecting political capture and control of the University.  Surely such a potential goal must not be perceived as delaying the resolution of a matter of social justice which is in my opinion now being used as an excuse to sideline the current Board of Trustees.  In my 36 years at the University, now is the worst possible time to allow the University to flap ineffectively in the breeze. Continue reading “No Progress in Reconstituting Functioning UofL Board of Trustees.”

Update On The Rising Prices of Insulin Between 2013 and 2016.

Earlier this month I published a survey of the cost of insulin to the Medicaid and Medicare programs of Kentucky and the nation.  Fully 9.1% of the total cost of Kentucky’s outpatient Medicaid drug program went to pay for the several brands of Insulin still available. It was obvious that some brands cost a lot more per prescription or claim than others and that the most expensive brands were prescribed most often!  I used this critically important drug as an example of how the market for prescription drugs in America is badly broken.  Since then I stumbled on two additional federal databases that provide additional insight into how much these drugs cost at the local pharmacy counter where the rubber hits the road. These are federal surveys that determine the National Average Retail Prices paid by the consumer (NARP), and the National Average Drug Acquisition Cost (NADAC) for the pharmacy.  Both these programs provide data at the cost per milliliter level, and otherwise facilitate apple-to-apple comparisons of the different brands.  In brief, the additional data confirm that in 2013, for the same size bottle, the newer insulin analogs cost 71% more than the older “human” insulins.  By 2015, all prices had increased; some substantially.  Valuable information about the retail prices of drugs is being kept from public inspection. Continue reading “Update On The Rising Prices of Insulin Between 2013 and 2016.”

UofL Board of Trustees Deemed Powerless, Left Hanging by Governor.

The process of replacing a trustee who resigned to allow appointment of an additional racial minority to the Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville and replace a number of trustees whose regular terms in office are expiring is invalid on its face for exactly the same reasons that the UofL Board was neutered.  Governor Bevin has not filled the open position with a minority candidate.  Although my reading of the statute that controls gubernatorial appointments to our state Universities allows a Governor to fill unexpected vacancies without having to wait for nominees from the Governor’s Postsecondary Nominating Committee (Nominating Committee), the Governor has not explored that route but neither has he called for a meeting of the Nominating Committee to present him with names.  A sceptic like myself might wonder if he was stalling to further protect his coreligionist, embattled UofL President James Ramsey.  After all, it was by declaring the Board of Trustees was illegally constituted that Governor Bevin derailed an earlier attempted vote of no-confidence in Dr. Ramsey by the Board.  By failing to appoint a replacement trustee and failing to involve the Nominating Committee, the Governor now finds himself in the happy place of being able to replace or reappoint five of the seven-member Nominating Committee itself, thus shaping it to his own policy and preference. Continue reading “UofL Board of Trustees Deemed Powerless, Left Hanging by Governor.”

Soaring Insulin Prices Highlight Broken Pharmaceutical Policy.

Just business– or greed?  You be the judge.ky-medicaid-insulins-2015-treemap-lg

Discovered and patented almost 100 years ago, insulin is a critical drug for the treatment of both childhood Type I and adult onset Type II diabetes mellitus.  Diabetes is a costly disease for our society in more ways than one.  In 2015, the cost to the Kentucky Medicaid program for insulin alone annualizes to $101.8 million.  Insulin consumed 9.1% of Kentucky Medicaid’s entire non-hospital drug expense while making up only 1.1% of all prescriptions.  In 2013, the last year in which Medicare Part-D drug utilization data are available to me, insulin consumed 7.3% of total Medicare reimbursement for drugs in Kentucky costing a total of $141.8 million.  In both federal programs, insulin consumed a larger portion of the drug budgets in Kentucky than nationally.  A review of several reasons why insulin has become so expensive illustrates what is very wrong with our national drug policy. Continue reading “Soaring Insulin Prices Highlight Broken Pharmaceutical Policy.”

Who Paid UofL’s Legal Bills In Its Dispute With Norton Healthcare?

Why does it matter?

[The University responds. See Addendum and comment.]

The dispute over control if not ownership of Children’s Hospital was a traumatic event for our community. It damaged the reputation of the hospital. The cost of the consequent litigation must also have been great. My guess is that the financial cost to both parties must have been in the millions of dollars.  Although details of the legal strategies are masked behind attorney-client privilege, as a state institution, the amounts paid by the University of Louisville to its attorney, Stites and Harbison of Louisville, are subject to open records inquiry – and so I asked. What I learned was both surprising and of concern. Even with heavily discounted legal fees, the cost of their confrontational and ultimately unsuccessful initiative was more than the University anticipated.  Additionally, the bills provide insights  into the internal financial management of the University.

In short, the University admits to paying for only about one third of the many months of formal court proceedings itself, all of which were within the first 15 months of a 29 month period. The University has not yet been willing to disclose where the money for the majority of billing periods came from, or who wrote the checks. I have been dependably informed, but have not yet confirmed, that the money came from the University of Louisville Foundation and University of Louisville Physicians, Inc. (ULP).  This litigation came at a time of considerable turmoil at the University of Louisville, including the turnover of senior administrative personnel.  It is possible to speculate that lack of consensus over the University’s path in this matter played a significant role.  How this litigation was directed and financed offers a window into the administrative and financial workings of the University and illustrates the background from which today’s lack of confidence in the presidency of Dr. James Ramsey arose. Continue reading “Who Paid UofL’s Legal Bills In Its Dispute With Norton Healthcare?”

Only 24% of Reporting UofL Faculty Support President James Ramsey.

Many fewer supporters in undergraduate units.
Re-boot of reputation desired.

I attended the Wednesday meeting of the Faculty Senate of the University of Louisville where the most anticipated topic on the agenda was the upcoming vote of no confidence in the leadership of James Ramsey by the Board of Trustees.  At an earlier meeting, individual senators were asked to discuss with their fellow unit faculty how their representatives – and in particular their faculty appointee to the University Board of Trustees – should cast their official votes.  In summary, only 24% of the faculty whose votes were reported recommended that the faculty trustee oppose a vote of no-confidence.  Reciprocally, 64% overall recommended a vote of no confidence, and 11% abstained from giving an opinion..

The discussion of a vote of no confidence was originally planned for a closed session limited to only senators and from which from which both news media and other faculty were to be excluded.  Apparently because of objections from the American Association of University Professors and number of faculty members (including me), the discussion was held in public in front of at least three or four television cameras and an unknown number of reporters.  Approximately 50 of the 64 Senators were in attendance and about 28 guests also signed in.  In the time available, only senators were recognized to speak.  There is no doubt that the public nature of the discussion altered its conduct and content.  A few senators noted they were uncomfortable speaking before the cameras, and concerns about retaliation were in evidence.  Most senators present remained silent during general discussion.  Those that did speak were polite, respectful, and earnestly honest.  Most of their comments have been rather fully quoted elsewhere, some with video,  and I will not repeat them here. (I recommend the Courier-Journal.  WDRB-Television . Insider Louisville.  WLKY-Television.)  Individuals spoke up both for- and against recommending a vote of no-confidence.  A minority of commenters were supporters of President Ramsey, a handful ardently so.  In my view, the more convincing arguments were made by those who believe that President Ramsey has been unable to reverse the cascade of worse-than-unfortunate events that is dragging the University down, and would be to unable to turn things around and take us into a better future. Continue reading “Only 24% of Reporting UofL Faculty Support President James Ramsey.”

Yesterday’s Explosion of UofL News.  Not All Good.

Do things always have to get worse before they get better?  When then can it ever end?

Yesterday was a busy news day for the University of Louisville.  While I was writing my own article in the afternoon, every journalist in town who has been following the drama within UofL’s administration these past many months was publishing new material!  I envy their information gathering network and their ability to publish something virtually every day.  Nonetheless, it appears that I was prescient with my own comments.  In truth, I would like to think I have been stirring the pot a little.  I will take the liberty of stepping through some of the points I made yesterday as a framework for catching up.

Headlines in today’s issues of the Courier-Journal by Andrew Wolfson, Insider Louisville by Joe Sonka, and WDRB Television by Chris Otts include the following:

  • The settlement between the Justice Resource Center and a variety of other parties over the statutory racial makeup of the Board of Trustees was made public.  This appears to turn upside down the timetable of any discussion of a vote of no-confidence in President Ramsey for both the Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees.  The process of appointing new minority trustees has been initiated.
  • The agenda of next Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting makes it official that the Senate leadership intends for its discussion of the no confidence vote to be held in secret.  This has elicited criticism, including from me.
  • Governor Bevin has unilaterally acted to decrease current state funding to universities by 4.5%.  This move was followed immediately by a declaration from the Attorney General that such a move was illegal and that his office would file a lawsuit to reverse it.
  • Acting University Provost Professor Neville Pinto was named as the permanent University Provost following a limited internal search, also drawing faculty criticism.
  • President Ramsey’s crisis management team continues to put out puff-pieces in an effort to offset continuous bad press.

The downside of all the above is that the University will be drawn out further in its institutional agony.  The upside is that additional time has become available for a systematic, transparent, and reliable survey of the faculty concerning their opinion of the leadership of President James Ramsey.  I will elaborate on this new information below. Continue reading “Yesterday’s Explosion of UofL News.  Not All Good.”