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Courts / Law

State Attempt to Reopen Medicaid Case Draws Fire

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With a federal judge possibly close to ruling in the case, plaintiffs' attorneys are objecting to a state attempt to offer new evidence in a lawsuit about whether Florida has adequately provided care to children in the Medicaid program.

The lawsuit, which has been spearheaded by the Florida Pediatric Society, was filed in 2005. A trial ended in 2012, and federal judge Adalberto Jordan is expected to issue a ruling soon, according to court documents.

In a strongly worded document filed Tuesday, the plaintiffs' attorneys said the state's attempt to introduce new evidence would be "highly prejudicial" and would cause additional delays.

"Essentially, defendants (state agencies) are asking for an entirely new trial in the guise of a motion to reopen the record,'' the document said. "The prejudice to plaintiffs, a class of nearly two million Florida children who depend on Medicaid, could not be greater."

The state Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families filed motions last week that, in part, asked for the case to be reopened to provide new evidence.

As an example, AHCA and the DOH pointed to a recently completed shift to a statewide managed-care system in Medicaid. They contend that the shift addressed issues in the case, such as having adequate networks of physicians to care for children.

Same-Sex Couples Take Aim at Bondi Legal Arguments

Saying the state has not shown a "likelihood of success" in the case, lawyers for same-sex couples filed a court document Tuesday taking aim at Attorney General Pam Bondi's arguments that gay marriage should continue to be blocked in Florida.

Bondi on Friday asked U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to keep in place a legal stay that has prevented same-sex marriages from taking place. Hinkle in August ruled that the gay-marriage ban was unconstitutional but issued a stay.

Bondi's office subsequently filed an appeal that remains pending at the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. After Hinkle's ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up similar cases from other states --- effectively clearing the way for same-sex marriages in those states. That spurred attorneys for same-sex couples to ask Hinkle to lift the stay in Florida.

In the document filed Tuesday, American Civil Liberties Union attorneys pointed to ongoing harm for same-sex couples if the gay-marriage ban continues.

"Every day that couples have to wait to marry or have their marriages recognized profoundly affects plaintiffs and other same-sex couples across the state,'' the document said. "Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples are subjected to irreparable harm every day they are forced to live without the security that marriage provides." Court documents do not indicate when Hinkle might decide whether to lift the stay.

Supreme Court Weighs Entering Water Dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court could be close to deciding whether it will take up a water dispute between Florida and Georgia that has high stakes for Apalachicola Bay in Franklin County.

Justices are scheduled to discuss the issue, along with other cases from across the country, during a closed-door conference Friday. During such conferences, the Supreme Court decides which cases it will hear.

Florida filed a lawsuit last year in the Supreme Court as part of its long-running effort to get more freshwater flowing downstream from Georgia in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. Florida has long argued that Georgia siphons too much water upstream for the Atlanta area's water supply and that a lack of flow downstream has damaged the critical oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay.

The Supreme Court early this year asked the U.S. solicitor general for an opinion about whether justices should hear the case. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote last month that justices should postpone possible resolution of the dispute until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a revised master manual for operating the river system.

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