Florida’s Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi finds herself in the very rare position of fighting with her own party in a battle over Medicaid fraud. She personally criticized a Republican-backed measure because she said it would derail an ongoing lawsuit alleging Medicaid fraud.
Bondi, who usually remains out of many legislative battles, testified before a House panel that a bill sponsored by a Panama City Republican was a “desperate attempt” to help companies that provide laboratory testing for the state’s safety net health care program. Bondi’s office joined a whistleblower lawsuit filed in Leon County that alleged that the companies are overcharging the state.
The state’s top legal officer and former prosecutor said that both Quest and Laboratory Corporation of America are alleged to have overcharged taxpayers by “tens of millions.” California previously reached settlements with the two companies that totaled nearly $300 million. She said the legislation would give the companies an “open checkbook” to “raid” the multi-billion dollar Medicaid program.
“In my five years I have never seen anything like this happen,” Bondi said. “This is an end run, desperate attempt in a potentially multimillion dollar case…It is highly inappropriate.”
Michael Huey, a Tallahassee attorney and lobbyist representing Laboratory Corporation of America, told the House panel that Bondi’s criticism were not based on “facts.” He said his clients have won some of the legal skirmishes surrounding the dispute but that the lawsuit is still ongoing. Court records show that a circuit judge last year rejected a request to dismiss the lawsuit.
Rep. Jay Trumbull said he filed the measure (HB 421) in an effort to define billing practices that are at the center of the ongoing lawsuit. Trumbull said there “too much ambiguity” with the current terms used by the state. He also maintained that he filed the legislation after conducting research about the issue on his own and was not asked by lobbyists representing the testing companies to file the bill.
Some Republicans on the House Health Innovation Subcommittee asked Bondi if she would be willing to support changes to the bill. Bondi said no, because she said the legislation would create a bad precedent.
“It needs to die here right now,” Bondi said.
After Bondi testified, the House committee delayed a vote on the bill. Rep. Kenneth Roberson, the chairman of the panel, said he wasn’t sure if the bill would be considered at the next meeting.