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A judge rejects an injunction request over Medicaid wage case

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Three groups filed a lawsuit after lawmakers approved directing money to AHCA to adjust reimbursement rates so Medicaid providers would pay at least $15 an hour to direct-care employees.

A Leon County circuit judge has rejected a request for a temporary injunction to block part of this year’s state budget that could open Medicaid providers to litigation if they don’t pay a $15 minimum wage to “direct care” workers.

Judge Angela Dempsey last week denied a motion for a temporary injunction filed by the Florida Ambulance Association, Florida Assisted Living Association and Home Care Association of Florida.

The groups filed a lawsuit and the injunction request in September, after lawmakers approved budget fine print that directed money to the Agency for Health Care Administration to adjust reimbursement rates so Medicaid providers would pay at least $15 an hour to direct-care employees.

Also, the budget said that as of Jan. 1, employees can file civil lawsuits against providers that do not pay $15 an hour, including possibly class-action lawsuits.

The lawsuit focuses on the constitutionality of the part of the budget that could lead to employee lawsuits if providers don’t comply. It contends that, under the Florida Constitution, creating such a “legal cause of action” must be done in state law, rather than in the annual budget.

Dempsey denied the injunction request on a series of grounds, including that any harm was speculative.

“For those injuries to be realized, the funds appropriated in the GAA (General Appropriations Act, or budget) for the specific purpose of increasing the minimum wage would have to be insufficient; Medicaid providers would have to choose not to pay the minimum wage out of other available funds; and the employees would then have to file a class action lawsuit,” Dempsey wrote.