FAMES: 'Keeping our fingers crossed'

Saturday, August 31, 2002

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services (FAMES) still awaits a decision from an administrative law judge on its lawsuit to stop competitive bidding for Medicaid.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," said Joan Cross, president of FAMES and co-owner of C&C Homecare in Bradenton, Fla. "We've got a lot of nervous people out there."

At press time, Cross said she expected Judge John G. Van Laningham to file a decision on the association's lawsuit by the end of last month. The decision was originally expected early last month, but there were delays in transcribing the June court proceedings, she said.

Cross said attorneys for both FAMES and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which administers the Medicaid program, were given transcripts near the end of July. They had two weeks to respond, and from that date, Van Laningham had 40 days to file his decision.

"We don't think it's going to take him that long, though," Cross said.

The judge has already overruled 53 objections that the state had put on the record when FAMES and AHCA met in court. FAMES was especially pleased to see him overrule AHCA's objection that that the association lacked "standing" to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state's Medicaid providers.

Van Laningham also may have hinted to what his final decision in the lawsuit might be. He states that the project "might be in direct conflict with federal law and hence invalid" because AHCA failed to get a waiver or exemption from CMS.

In its competitive bidding project for oxygen equipment and supplies and hospital beds, AHCA has awarded bids to five providers: Rotech, Mercury Medical, Care Med Respiratory Services, All-Med Services of Florida and Medical Decision Services. These providers will be responsible for servicing all 11 regions of the state. HME