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FL health and human services agencies head to court over transgender care, Medicaid

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FL health and human services agencies head to court over transgender care, Medicaid

Dec 07, 2023 | 1:43 pm ET
By Jackie Llanos
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FL health and human services agencies head to court over transgender care, Medicaid
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U.S. District Courthouse for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee. Credit: Michael Moline

Florida state agencies will face legal challenges to health care policies on the same day next week — a trial on the state’s transgender care ban and a hearing in a lawsuit seeking Medicaid eligibility for thousands of Floridians.

In Tallahassee, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle will preside over a trial set to start next Wednesday over the state law banning Medicaid coverage for common medical treatments for transgender adults and gender-affirming therapies for trans minors.

The same day, in Jacksonville, there will be a hearing on a preliminary injunction seeking to restore coverage to more than 822,000 Floridians who have lost Medicaid since Florida started reviewing whether to continue eligibility for participants following the end of continued coverage under the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and top officials at the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine are defendants in the suit against the transgender care ban. The restrictions became law in May after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 254.

The plaintiffs allege that the law violates the equal-protection rights of transgender people by restricting doctor-recommended health care to treat gender dysphoria. Hinkle ruled in favor of the transgender minors in June, allowing them to continue receiving care, but did not stop enforcement of the law for adults. In that September decision, Hinkle wrote that the adult plaintiffs hadn’t established that they’d suffer unduly if the law continued to be enforced.

In Jacksonville, U.S. District Judge Marcia Marcia Morales Howard will preside over the lawsuit against leaders of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families over their handling of Medicaid eligibility review.

A hearing for the preliminary injunction that could give coverage back to the people dropped from Medicaid since March was originally scheduled for Dec. 5 but had to be moved to next week because of a medical emergency involving an attorney, according to court records.

The complaint filed in August by the Florida Health Justice Project and the National Health Law Program alleges that the agencies violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Medicaid Act because they did not provide adequate advance notice of the eligibility review.

Public health policy experts at George Washington University published an analysis of Florida’s process on Dec. 1, stating more than 250,000 Floridians could become uninsured by the time the state is done with the renewal process early next year.