The Agency for Health Care Administration collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines each year. For many assisted living communities, it is a drop in the bucket, a cost of doing business, or just feeding the beast. Well, what if it is more than that?
There are several reasons you should retire the attitude of just paying the fine, but lets only dwell on the most important one: The “Notice of Intent to Deny Renewal!” For many, it comes as a shock when you receive the Notice. The Florida Assisted Living Association gets the call and we review these Notices and see that the assisted living community never decided to challenge any fines based on alleged violations of statutes and rules. Many of the Denials are based on a pattern of deficient performance for which the facility has no legal defense because the Agency has several Final Orders and, therefore; the community is prevented from having a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge to review the facts and make findings and conclusions of law surrounding the alleged violations. Instead, the community is required to go before an Agency for Health Care Administration attorney that will take into account mitigating circumstances that you believe the Agency should consider.
Communities need to strongly consider requesting hearings when necessary. You need to challenge the facts if needed, but you should never just pay the fine when you have not violated any statute or rules. The Agency settles thousands of actions each year. However, so many more are by default. Final Orders for those that just submit the check and therefore agree to the facts contained in the Notice to Fine or the Administrative Complaint face an uphill battle once they receive the Notice of Intent to Deny or a Complaint seeking revocation. Don’t be the one that receives the Notice of Intent to Deny via certified mail based on capitulating to incorrect facts and Agency conclusions you know are incorrect.
Shaddrick A. Haston, Esq.