The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration dropped its appeal last month in the continuing legal battle over payments to hospitals providing emergency services to undocumented immigrants.
An appeals court on Wednesday ordered AHCA to pay legal fees of an alliance of hospitals fighting the agency over emergency-services issue for more than two years.
Coverage for emergency care of undocumented immigrants is under the state’s Medicaid program, but the recent litigation centered on the extent of services to be covered. Previously, the state deemed emergency service payments as “medically necessary.”
In 2010, AHCA started applying a more-restrictive standard, where payments would be made only to the point patients were “stabilized.”
Hospitals challenged the rule, with an administrative law judge ruled in December 2012 that the AHCA rule was changed without the required process in rulemaking. AHCA brought the case to the First District Court of Appeal, but then last month filed a motion to dismiss the challenge, after oral arguments held in May.
The three-judge appeals court panel on Wednesday approved the dismissal, adding that AHCA “may not avoid its obligation to pay appellees’ (the hospitals’) reasonable appellate attorney’s fees by filing this belated notice of voluntary dismissal.”
The court remanded the case to the administrative law judge, which will determine the fees, if both sides fail to reach an agreement.
Legal wrangling over rules on paying hospitals for the treatment of undocumented immigrants may not be over. This week, hospitals filed a document with the state Division of Administrative Hearings contending the AHCA has not appropriately carried out the 2012 order by an administrative law judge.