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Gov. Scott signs bill allowing shuttered Lakeland hospice to reopen

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On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill allowing the Lakeland hospice closed by the state over a paperwork error a chance to reopen.

The governor signed HB 441, which allows Compassionate Care Hospice (CCH) on Drane Field Road access to an expedited process to reapply for its license with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. The new law lets the process begin immediately.

HB 441, sponsored by state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring and state Rep. Ray Rodrigues of Fort Myers, gives the AHCA more flexibility in addressing administrative errors. It will protect other healthcare providers from the same troubles that had plagued CCH since March.

In April, CCH suspended services after the AHCA accused the facility of not submitting license renewal paperwork by a February deadline. According to the state, the company’s license technically expired, followed by a letter to CCH on March 9 ordering the hospice facility to end operations immediately.

CCH officials continued to insist that they provided the AHCA proper paperwork on time; the agency argued they never received the forms.

CCH, which serves Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, asked the state for permission to continue serving terminally ill patients throughout the appeal process, but was denied a hearing.

Lawmakers passed legislation to allow the company to begin resumption of operations and give hospice services to about 250 patients in homes and healthcare facilities.

The bill, which passed the Senate 38-0 and the House of Representatives 106-0, was signed Thursday as one of 27 bills on Scott’s desk.

Compassionate Care Hospice can now reapply for its state license, as part of an abbreviated process that could take up to two weeks, depending on the AHCA, and is much faster than if they had to begin the licensing process from scratch. CCH must also re-enroll for reimbursements through Medicaid and Medicare.

Robert Aberman, CCH director of business development, praised the passage of the bill.

“Compassionate Care Hospice is  extremely grateful to Gov. Rick Scott, and members of the Florida Legislature who championed HB 441,” he said in a statement. “They have truly demonstrated kindness and their commitment through good governance.  We also thank AHCA for their assistance in crafting this legislative solution.  We look forward to opening our doors to serve Floridians in need.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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