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Disputes About Old Hospital Rates Stir Controversy

hospital workers in hospital
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

  A Senate committee Tuesday postponed taking action on a controversial bill that stems from disputes about old Medicaid payment rates for hospitals.

The bill (SB 322), filed by state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would create a five-year time limit on challenges by hospitals to reimbursement rates. Supporters of the bill said it is needed because some hospitals have filed administrative challenges to reimbursements that date back to the 1990s or earlier.

State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said some people have "combed through the dusty archives" to challenge whether they were paid enough in the past. But the Senate Health Policy Committee postponed action on the bill Tuesday after questions were raised about how it could affect hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income patients.

Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, questioned the bill's effect on hospitals such as Tampa General Hospital and said more work needed to be done on the issue.

Committee Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, acknowledged the difficulty of the issue.

"It's not a fun bill,'' he said.


Moving quickly after a Florida Supreme Court ruling, a House panel Tuesday approved a bill that would allow the secret recording of conversations if they involve someone committing illegal acts of force or violence against another person. The bill (PCB CRJS 15-01) was approved with little discussion by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. It came after the Supreme Court in December ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing his stepdaughter. Justices ruled that recordings made by Richard R. McDade's stepdaughter should not have been allowed into his Lee County trial. State law generally bars recording of conversations unless all parties agree, and it also prevents such recordings from being used as evidence in court. The ruling spurred House and Senate members to draw up bills to address the issue during the legislative session that starts March 3. The House bill would allow secret recordings if someone has "reasonable grounds to believe that the recording will capture a statement by another party to the communication that the other party intends to commit, is committing, or has committed an unlawful act of physical force or violence against a person."


Former Senate President Tom Lee, who returned to the Senate in 2012 after a six-year hiatus, has opened a campaign account to seek another term in 2018, according to the state Division of Elections website. Lee, R-Brandon, served as Senate president from 2004 to 2006. He returned to the Senate when he was elected to a two-year term in 2012 and then was re-elected to a four-year term in 2014. He now serves as Senate Appropriations chairman, a powerful position that oversees writing the state budget. Lee is the only candidate who has opened an account to run in 2018 in Hillsborough County's Senate District 24.