Three Stories (Briefed) You Might Have Missed
Around the State
HOSPITALS WIN CASE ON UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS
A judge Friday sided with a coalition of hospitals that challenged the state Agency for Health Care Administration in a dispute about payment for emergency services provided to undocumented immigrants. Administrative Law Judge John D.C. Newton ruled that AHCA made changes in 2010 without going through a required rule-making process.
The state's Medicaid program pays hospitals for emergency services provided to undocumented immigrants, but the case focused on the extent of services that should be covered. In the past, payments were made when emergency services were considered "medically necessary." But in 2010, AHCA began using a more-restrictive standard that said payments would be made until patients are "stabilized." The coalition of hospitals from across South Florida and the Tampa Bay area argued that the more-restrictive standard led to claims being denied and attempts to recoup money from hospitals.
They also argued AHCA should have formally adopted a rule before making the change. In a 31-page order, Newton agreed that the change had not been properly adopted. "The agency must immediately discontinue all reliance upon the 'stabilization' standard or any substantially similar statement as a basis for agency action,'' he wrote.
DJJ MOVES RESIDENTS FROM MILTON FACILITY, PROVIDER ENDS CONTRACT
After two recent accusations of abuse at the Milton Girls Juvenile Residential Facility, the contract between the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the lock-up's private provider is ending.
DJJ on Friday notified Gulf Coast Treatment Center, Inc. that the state is transferring all remaining youths in the facility to alternative programs. Gulf Coast then moved to terminate the contract and DJJ agreed, effective midnight Monday.
The termination follows an August incident – caught on videotape – in which corrections officer Shannon Abbott appeared to slam a 15-year-old inmate into a cement wall, throw her to the ground and pin her for 20 minutes. After the teen reported the incident to the abuse hotline at the Department of Children and Families, DCF ruled it was abusive and Abbott was charged with misdemeanor battery. Abbott had filed an incident report saying the teen had resisted, but when DJJ subsequently released the surveillance videos, they did not appear to support her.
The agency is also investigating allegations that Carol Andrus, the Milton lock-up's program director, last month grabbed a restrained 15-year-old and threw her down, lacerating her face and ear. DJJ said many youths in the facility expressed concerns for their personal safety to state officials and local law enforcement.
MIAMI GRAND JURY: EXPAND EARLY VOTING
The state should expand early voting to a minimum of 120 hours, start 15 days before an election, make it illegal for anyone to be in possession of more than two absentee ballots, and restore a requirement that someone must witness in person an absentee voter's signature on a ballot, a grand jury in Miami-Dade County said Thursday.
The grand jury also said the Legislature should expand early voting sites, particularly in big counties, and give the local supervisors discretion in determining the location and number of early voting sites. The 21-member grand jury was asked to look primarily at absentee voting after the August primary, following charges against ballot brokers in Hialeah. Several other laws should be in place regarding people who provide assistance to voters. People who are helping others vote should have to sign a declaration, for example, the grand jury said.