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Senate panel defers on bill that would end $30 million in hospital legal challenges

A bill that would limit a hospital’s ability to challenge its Medicaid reimbursement in state administrative courts was temporarily deferred by the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday after several committee members expressed concerns with the proposal.

The measure, SB 322, by Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Chairman Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was filed the final week of January and quickly taken up the Senate Health Policy Committee during the first week of committee meetings in February.

Committee Chairman Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, acknowledged that the measure “is not a fun bill” and has hospitals “hollering.”

Stargel said the measure is meant to bring “reasonableness” to health care by placing a 21-day limit for a hospital has to challenge its reimbursements after receiving from the state notice laying out the reimbursement rates. The challenge must be settled within five years under the terms of the bill.

The bill also makes clear that neither an administrative body nor court can compel the agency to pay a monetary judgement relating to hospital reimbursements more than five years after receiving initial notice of the rates.

The Florida Hospital Association waived its time but opposed the bill. Jan Gorrie, managing partner of Ballard Partners Tampa office, said she was working with Stargel on the measure but that Tampa General Hospital could be adversely affected. The hospital is one of the largest organ transplant providers in the nation, she said.

According to a Senate staff analysis, the measure would affect several administrative challenges that, if the state lost in court, could reach $30 million. The analysis notes that the Agency for Health Care Administration is involved in “several challenges” involving rates that were set back in the 1980s and the 1990s.

In addition to the costs of litigation, given the passage of time for some of the challenges and the expedited time frame for administrative hearings, the AHCA may not have all the documentation readily available to support and defend the rates challenged, the staff analysis notes.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the bill would stop the “fishing expedition” that some Florida hospitals are on in an attempt to increase the amount of money in their coffers. Gaetz said the bill was “proper and prudent.”

There is no House companion.

The bill was temporarily passed so the Senate could gather more information about the pending cases in administrative court and will reconsider the bill at another meeting, Bean said.

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