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Justices Decline Baker County Hospital Case

Baker County Medical Services
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal by a small North Florida hospital in a case that centered on payments for treating federal detainees. Justices declined to hear the appeal from Ed Fraser Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed facility in Baker County.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled against the hospital, which argued that it should not be limited to charging Medicare rates when it provides emergency care for detainees coming from a local facility that houses people in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to court documents.

The hospital contended that requiring it to charge the Medicare rates was an unconstitutional "taking" because actual costs are higher than those rates. But the appeals court in August pointed, in part, to the hospital's participation in the Medicare program.

As part of that participation, hospitals also are required to comply with what is known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires them to provide emergency treatment to all patients without regard to ability to pay.

The appeals court said the hospital was precluded from challenging the Medicare payments as an unconstitutional taking. The Supreme Court on Monday did not explain its reasons for declining to take the case.