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Amended House bill may save Lakeland hospice

A Lakeland hospice threatened with closing by the state, could be saved by a bill making its way through the Legislature.

On Tuesday, Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues will introduce an amendment to HB 441, with legislative language to help Compassionate Care Hospice on Drane Field Road to continue serving terminally ill patients.

This year, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration accused CCH of not submitting required license renewal paperwork by a February deadline. With that, the company’s license technically had expired, according to the state, prompting a letter March 9 ordering the facility to cease operations immediately.

CCH officials said they sent the proper paperwork in a timely manner to the state, with the AHCA countering that they never received it.

CCH, which serves Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, pleaded its case with the state for permission to continue serving patients during the appeal process. However, the AHCA denied a hearing, which CCH attorneys say would have given them the chance to present compelling evidence the company submitted proper renewal paperwork.

That led to CCH seeking relief through legislation.

Set for a House floor hearing, the bill is one day earlier than a similar Senate version filed by Sebring Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley. Both bills seek to revise information a home health agency is required to submit to the AHCA for license renewal.

According to bill, “an applicant whose license expired between January 1, 2015 and the effective date of this act may apply for an exemption within 30 days of this act becoming law.”

A critical difference in HB 441 is in the effective date, a change allowing CCH to get back to work as soon as Gov. Rick Scott signs the bill.

Language of the Senate bill says the law could not take effect until July 1, too late for CCH to recover.

In a sign of goodwill, CCH – with branches across the country – has temporarily continued to pay its workers. The firm wrote payroll checks totaling $250,000 for 150 employees in the Central Florida region in March, paying staff while the company had no assurance of reimbursement, something that state law dictates for licensed hospice providers.

CCH representatives continue to hope the company can sustain employees until the state resolves the matter legislatively.

Written By

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist, editor and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range included covering news, local government and entertainment reviews for Patch.com, technical articles, and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine as well as advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached at phil.ammann@gmail.com.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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