Court Sides With State On Immigrant Emergency Care

Jul 7, 2016

An appeals court has sided with the state in a long-running dispute about Medicaid payments to hospitals that provide emergency care to undocumented immigrants.

With no explanation, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal last week upheld a ruling by an administrative law judge in the case, which was filed by more than two dozen hospitals against the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

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. Hospitals in 2012 won an administrative case challenging AHCA over a standard for determining the duration of payments.

That ruling prompted the agency to make a change that was again challenged by the hospitals. Administrative Law Judge John D.C. Newton last year upheld the agency's new position, leading the hospitals to take the dispute to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

The three-judge panel on June 21 heard arguments that focused, in part, on direction from the agency that Medicaid would pay for services until emergencies are "alleviated." The hospitals contended the agency's use of alleviation effectively created a new standard that was not approved through a required rule-making process.