Judge rules county doesn't have to pay 3 Florida hospitals for indigent care

Circuit Judge Andrea McHugh ruled against HCA Florida Englewood Hospital, the now defunct ShorePoint Health Venice (Fla.) and HCA Florida Sarasota Doctors Hospital's attempt to prove that a special act by the Florida Legislature and local ordinances created a contract requiring Sarasota County to pay the hospitals for their treatment of indigent patients, The Sun reported Nov. 11.

Ms. McHugh found that neither the local ordinance nor Florida Legislature laws created a contract between the hospitals and the county. According to The Sun, an appeal is likely.

In 1959, Florida amended a special act and made it mandatory for Sarasota County to reimburse its public hospital district for care of indigent patients. The act also mentioned reimbursement to any other hospital that provides care to the indigent, which was the source of the three private hospitals' argument. The county enacted a local ordinance in 1972 that removed the mandatory language.

"There would be no reason the County would want to enter into a contract for services the Private Hospitals were already providing, and, by 2000, were required to do by other state and federal laws," Ms. McHugh wrote. "Likewise, it would be illogical for the County to enter into an open-ended contract to potentially pay hundreds of millions of dollars when its other indigent care ordinances carefully restrain and oversee such expenditures."

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