Justices Will Hear Hospital Funding Dispute

Jul 6, 2016

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Oct. 5 in a long-running dispute about a 2003 state law that directed Sarasota County to reimburse private hospitals for indigent care, according to an online docket.

Sarasota Doctors Hospital, Inc., Englewood Community Hospital Inc., and the former Venice Regional Medical Center took the issue to the Supreme Court after the 2nd District Court of Appeal last year ruled that part of the 2003 law was unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said the reimbursement requirement was an improper "special law" because it would single out private hospitals in Sarasota County for payments.

The three private hospitals went to court in 2011 after the county refused to reimburse them, according to the appeals-court ruling.

The private hospitals argued, at least in part, that the law was constitutional because the Sarasota Public Hospital District also could claim reimbursements and that the private hospitals perform a "public good" by caring for indigent people.

While Venice Regional Medical Center is named in the case, the hospital is now known as Venice Regional Bayfront Health.

Justices issued an order June 24 setting the date for oral arguments, according to the docket.