Florida Attorney Says AHCA Must Put Medicaid Final Orders Online
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has come under fire for failing to make Medicaid final orders accessible to the public. On April 11, 2023, an attorney asked a Florida appeals court to revive her suit against AHCA, trying to force AHCA into compliance with state public records laws.
Attorney Nancy Wright says the AHCA orders fall under a state law that requires all proceedings determined by a state agency to be placed into a centralized electronic database accessible to the public. This would allow citizens and healthcare providers more accessible access to those decisions and transparency when understanding Medicaid policies and decisions made by AHCA.
Access to Medicaid Final Orders.
The plaintiff’s attorney argued before a three-judge panel of the court of appeal that she should not be required to pay hundreds of dollars to gain access to Medicaid final orders to prepare for clients’ Medicaid hearings when the law requires the agency to publish these. The attorney further argued that this fee was an unfair and unjustified barrier to justice. She should be given free access to these orders to provide her clients the best possible representation.
More Details of the Case.
The Florida Health Justice Project and the National Health Law Program filed the lawsuit against AHCA on behalf of Wright in December 2020 in the First District Court of Appeal of Florida.
“[Medicaid law’s] notorious complexity and rapid regulatory changes put even lawyers on edge,” she said in a statement when she filed her suit. “AHCA’s unwillingness to make their [sic] final orders accessible means that I cannot fully advise my clients on how and why decisions on services are being made. This lack of transparency makes a complicated system almost impossible to navigate for the many unrepresented enrollees.”
View the press release from The Florida Health Justice Project.
However, the trial court sided with AHCA and granted summary judgment to the agency.
The Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar expressed their support for Wright and submitted an amicus brief on appeal. They highlighted that the Florida Department of Children and Families regulates Medicaid eligibility proceedings with the same law that provides authority to AHCA. Furthermore, the Department publishes its final orders in an electronic database, making them readily available to the public.
However, accessing these same orders on Medicaid coverage requires a public records request which can be costly and time-consuming. In its brief, the Elder Law Section argued that this disparity is unfair as it burdens those attempting to access said records. The brief further suggested that upholding the trial court’s summary judgment would only perpetuate this inequality of access to public records.
To learn more, read the complaint in full here.
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Physicians, therapists, counselors, and other health professionals who accept Medicaid are routinely audited by the Medicaid Program to detect overpayments or fraudulent claims. Medicaid fraud is a severe crime and is vigorously investigated by the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), Program Integrity Contractors (PICs), the FBI, and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Other state and federal agencies may also participate, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and other law enforcement agencies. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health law attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.
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About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
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