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Health News Florida

Hospitals Challenge AHCA over Immigrant Emergency Care

A coalition of hospitals from across the state has launched a legal challenge against the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration in a long-running dispute about payments for emergency care provided to undocumented immigrants. The challenge, filed last week in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, involves the extent of emergency care that should be covered for undocumented immigrants through the Medicaid program. The hospitals contend that AHCA overstepped its legal authority in placing a limit on when payments should end. In the past, payments were made when emergency services were considered "medically necessary," according to the legal challenge. But in 2010, AHCA began using a more-restrictive standard that said payments would be made until patients are "stabilized." An administrative law judge in 2012 ruled in favor of hospitals that argued AHCA made the changes without going through a required rule-making process. The new challenge alleges, in part, that AHCA has substituted a standard that limits payments to the point of "alleviation" instead of stabilization. It contends that AHCA did not go through the proper rule-making process. Administrative Law Judge John D.C. Newton on Tuesday scheduled a hearing in the case for Nov. 12 and Nov. 13. The hospitals filing the challenge are from across the southern part of the state and the Tampa Bay area and include such major industry players as Lee Memorial Health System, the South Broward Hospital District, the North Broward Hospital District and hospitals in the Tenet Healthcare chain.

JUDGE DISMISSES SUNSHINE CHARGE AGAINST DORWORTH

An Orange County judge Tuesday cleared former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, of a misdemeanor charge of violating the state's Sunshine Law, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Dorworth, who lost a re-election bid in 2012 after being in line to become House speaker, was charged as part of a broader investigation into the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. He was accused of improperly acting as a conduit for information between two board members who were involved in a plot to replace the authority's then-director, Max Crumit, according to the Sentinel. The Sunshine Law requires board members to discuss business in public meetings, rather than in private. But Judge Tanya Davis Wilson said Dorworth's First Amendment rights were violated by the misdemeanor charge. "A private citizen has a protected constitutional right to communicate with public officials or members of a public body about matters that may come before that body," Wilson wrote, according to the Sentinel.

NEXTGEN NEARS $12M IN BID TO OUST SCOTT

A political committee founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer sent another $2 million to Florida early this month as it tries to help defeat Republican Gov. Rick Scott, according to a finance report filed with the state Division of Elections. The NextGen Climate Action Committee made the contribution Oct. 8 to its Florida arm, known as "NextGen Climate Action Committee-Florida." In all, the Florida committee had raised $11.96 million as of Oct. 10, with all but $210,000 of that amount coming from the NextGen national committee. The Florida group also had spent $9,438,701, with money going to expenses such as advertising, mail pieces and grassroots efforts. Scott is one of a handful of politicians targeted for defeat this year by NextGen Climate Action because of his views on climate change. In the past, Scott has said he was not convinced climate change was man-made and was quoted as saying he is "not a scientist" when asked how he would handle the issue.

LONGTIME SCHOOL BOARDS CHIEF RETIRING IN FEBRUARY

The head of the Florida School Boards Association is stepping down in February. Wayne Blanton, who will have served as executive director of the organization for 30 years when he retires and who worked for the association for 10 years before that, told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday that he's decided it's time. "Forty years is a long time to do the same thing," said Blanton, 68. He said he will continue working on education issues and will do some consulting work, but not full-time. "I'm retiring, but not disappearing," Blanton said. The association represents school boards before the Legislature, state agencies and the federal government.

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