TALLAHASSEE — Florida's counties may reconsider a lawsuit over disputed Medicaid fees because the state has slashed $171.4 million from their bills, a spokeswoman for their statewide association said Wednesday.
That cut the disputed amount by more than half — from $316 million to $146.4 million.
Florida Association of Counties spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller called the reduction "exceptional." She said the organization is still talking with its members about its next move but is "taking everything under consideration." That includes the possibility of dropping the lawsuit that's pending in a Tallahassee court.
Mosteller also praised Gov. Rick Scott for keeping his promise to ensure counties are dunned only for what they actually owe.
Scott made that pledge in March when he signed a law withholding state revenue sharing from counties that fail to pay disputed charges going back several years.
The association and 47 individual counties — out of Florida's 67 — then sued in state Circuit Court challenging the new law. No hearing has yet been set in the case.
Counties are billed for a portion of the services their residents receive from the state-federal health care program for low-income and disabled patients.
The lawsuit alleges the counties are being overcharged because of mistakes made by the state's electronic billing system. It cites such examples as Alachua County being billed for applications that failed to list a billing code because it's first on the alphabetical list of counties being billed for nonresidents. Also cited was Escambia County getting bills for residents of neighboring Escambia County, Ala.
Lawmakers who supported the law, which passed on largely partisan votes in the Republican-controlled Legislature, contend the counties are simply refusing to pay their fair share because their budgets are pinched in tough economic times.
The association on Friday sent its members a memo urging them to "share your appreciation to" Scott, noting the governor and other state officials have spent the past three months reviewing the backlog of county Medicaid bills.
Agency for Health Care Administration deputy director Karen Zeiler visited all 67 counties and recommended an administrative rule, which the association says will provide a fair way to implement the law. A hearing on the proposal is set for July 26.
The agency oversees Florida's Medicaid program and is a defendant in the lawsuit.
It argues in part that the law violates the Florida Constitution because it did not pass by a two-thirds majority in each legislative chamber as required for "unfunded mandates" and revenue sharing reductions. The legislation met the supermajority requirement in the House but fell four votes short in the Senate.