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Arguments Set In Dispute Over Immigrant ER Care

Stethoscope and gavel against a white backdrop.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

An appeals court will hear arguments June 7 in a long-running dispute between the state Agency for Health Care Administration and more than two-dozen hospitals about Medicaid payments for providing emergency care to undocumented immigrants.

The 1st District Court of Appeal scheduled the arguments Monday in the hospitals' challenge to a ruling last year by an administrative law judge, according to an online docket. The case has involved major hospital systems across the southern part of the state and the Tampa Bay area, such as Lee Memorial Health System, the North Broward Hospital District and hospitals that are part of the Tenet Healthcare system.

Hospitals are required to treat patients who show up for emergency care, but the legal dispute has focused on the extent of care for undocumented immigrants that should be covered through the Medicaid program.

Administrative Law Judge John D.C. Newton last year rejected arguments by the hospitals that the Agency for Health Care Administration had overstepped its authority in approving rules that address the duration of payments.

In 2012, Newton ruled against AHCA in an earlier case brought by hospitals. That case stemmed from a change that AHCA made in 2010 to allow payments until patients were "stabilized." The hospitals argued the change was made improperly and that it led to claims being denied.

After that case, AHCA discontinued its use of what Newton described as the "stabilization standard" and changed the process for evaluating claims.