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Health Care Groups Challenge Budget Provision Allowing Civil Lawsuits Over $15 Wage

Health Care Groups Challenge Budget Provision Allowing Civil Lawsuits Over $15 Wage

Medicaid HCAF in the News

By Michael Carroll, The Florida Record | October 10, 2022 | Read online

Three Florida health care groups are suing the state to stop officials from enforcing a provision of the 2022-23 Florida budget that would allow civil lawsuits against Medicaid providers that fail to pay certain workers at least $15 per hour.

The plaintiffs, including the Florida Assisted Living Association, Florida Ambulance Association and the Home Health Care Association of Florida, filed the lawsuit Sept. 27 in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County. They argue that the provision allowing civil court actions against providers that fail to pay “direct care employees” a minimum of $15 per hour violates the Florida Constitution.

“While the Florida Assisted Living Association does not comment on pending litigation, we have been consistent with our request of the Legislature and executive branch to provide a delay or relief to providers who are being asked to sign supplemental Medicaid agreements without knowing if they will have the funds to pay the $15 minimum wage mandate," the association’s CEO, Veronica Catoe, told the Florida Record in an email.

The budget provision, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2023, allows those filing civil suits over the $15-per-hour wage requirement to recover back wages in addition to the same amount as liquidated damages and attorney fees. The lawsuit contends the provision is invalid because the state constitution doesn’t allow appropriations bills to alter or expand existing law beyond appropriations.

Currently, the state imposes a minimum wage of $11 per hour.

“This underfunded obligation coupled with this potentially crippling new class-action liability significantly increases the risks associated with the continued provision of Medicaid services,” the complaint states. “If the challenged sections take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, as stated in the budget, then there is a real possibility that at least some of the plaintiffs’ members may decline to participate in the Medicaid program going forward.”

Funding provisions in the 2022-23 budget are insufficient to allow the plaintiffs to pay their “direct care employees” $15 per hour, the complaint says. In turn, the prospect of civil lawsuits filed over this issue amounts to a “crippling legal liability” for the plaintiffs and other Medicaid providers, according to the lawsuit.

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