Florida Medicaid Can’t Get Back to Its Chosen Future, Yet


Maybe Florida’s Medicaid agency should have asked to borrow one of the old “Back to the Future” DeLoreans from the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando instead of filing a motion to alter a federal court’s decision refusing to allow the state to recoup Medicaid expenditures from recipients.

It certainly wouldn’t have made the resulting opinion from Judge Mark E. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida any less scathing.

In denying the motion, Walker invoked the 1985 time-travel film from the very start, saying “[t]he Florida Agency for Health Care Administration ('AHCA') has also tried to go back in time but, unlike the protagonist mentioned above, it hopes to change the future (more specifically, this Court’s prior judgment).”

It is not often that a federal judge allows his anger to show in a written opinion, but Walker didn’t hold back in excoriating the state agency throughout his opinion, at times calling the state’s arguments “nonsense” and “just wrong.” Walker also called out what he called Florida’s “pernicious” legal strategy of hiring new outside counsel and filing motions to alter unfavorable judgments against it.

“Despite numerous opportunities to adequately defend cases brought against it, Florida consistently drags its feet,” the court said. “Then, after receiving an unfavorable ruling, it complains about the original ruling and hires outside counsel (and spends, quite literally, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars) to essentially relitigate the case.”

In the April ruling, Walker blocked the AHCA from attempting to recoup from a Medicaid patient any portion of a legal settlement related to that patient’s underlying injury that represented payment for future medical expenses.

Two weeks after Walker’s decision, the AHCA switched counsel and filed its motion to alter the judgment, claiming the court had erred in finding the Medicaid reimbursement statute was preempted by federal law.

Walker denied the motion July 18 and blasted the state agency for even bringing the motion. The next day he granted a motion by the plaintiffs in the case for attorneys’ fees. However he held off on assigning an amount to those fees because “it is likely that this case will be appealed.”

And at this point, the federal appeals courts are probably the only remaining vehicles with sufficient power to get the AHCA back to a future where its Medicaid reimbursement law could be found to be valid.

Read my full article here.

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