Storm causes delay in Sarasota hospital arguments

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (By The News Service of Florida) - The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday postponed arguments until February in a constitutional battle about a 2003 state law that directed Sarasota County to reimburse private hospitals for indigent care.

Justices had been scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday in the case, but attorneys for one of the parties, the former Venice Regional Medical Center, asked for a postponement because of Hurricane Matthew threatening the state. A motion filed Tuesday indicated at least one of the attorneys, Geoffrey Smith, lives in Brevard County, which could be in the path of the massive storm.

The Supreme Court rescheduled the hearing for Feb. 8.

Sarasota Doctors Hospital, Inc., Englewood Community Hospital Inc., and the former Venice Regional Medical Center, now known as Venice Regional Bayfront Health, went to the Supreme Court after the 2nd District Court of Appeal last year ruled that part of the 2003 law was unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court sided with Sarasota County in ruling that the reimbursement requirement was an improper "special law" because it would single out private hospitals in the county for payments.