If you are reading this article it means that you have probably received a letter from the Agency for Healthcare Administration (“AHCA”) stating that they have uncovered criminal offenses that disqualify you from working for a health care provider. AHCA may have uncovered this offense a result of background screening submitted as part of the employment process for a health care provider and/or participation as a Medicaid provider. This applies to clinical staff as well as facility owners, administrators and chief financial officers and those seeking enrollment as a provider in the Florida Medicaid program. Fear not, because you may be eligible to file an Exemption from Disqualification if you meet certain criteria.
Am I Eligible for Exemption?
Our firm can assist you with demonstrating to AHCA by clear and convincing evidence that an exemption from disqualification should be granted. The application will only be reviewed once all relevant supporting documents are received by AHCA. You are only eligible for Exemption from Disqualification if:
- You have been lawfully released from confinement, supervision or other nonmonetary condition imposed by the court for a disqualifying misdemeanor criminal offense;
- At least 3 years after you have been lawfully released from confinement, supervision, or other nonmonetary condition imposed by the court for a disqualifying felony criminal offense;
- You have completed any court-ordered fee, fine, fund, lien, civil judgment, application, costs of prosecution, trust, or restitution as part of the judgment and sentence for any disqualifying felony or misdemeanor in full; and
- If you have been designated as a sexual predator, sexual offender or career offender you are not eligible for an exemption from Disqualification.
Filing the Application
Filling out the application can be a bit tricky, so you should definitely hire a health law attorney that has experience with doing so in order to prevent delays in processing your application. In addition to completing the Application for Exemption from Disqualification you will need to provide AHCA with the following:
- Current Level II Screening;
- Arrest Reports;
- Court Dispositions;
- Signed Statement (only if you cannot obtain the arrest report and/or court disposition);
- Probation and/or Parole records;
- Letters of Reference; and
- Documentation of Rehabilitation
It is important to note that when you apply for exemption you must provide all arrest reports, including those that were not specifically listed in the notice that you received from AHCA. You will also need to provide all court dispositions no matter the plea, judgment, verdict or even if it was sealed or expunged from your record. All of these documents will need to be neatly organized and AHCA must receive the documents within 30 days from receipt of its letter. It may take a little bit of legwork to retrieve these documents, so it is important to contact our firm as soon as possible so that we don’t miss the deadline. AHCA rarely grants extensions for filing the application.
What Happens After Filing?
Once AHCA received the documents, it will be transferred to the Exemption Team and assigned to one of their analysts. As stated earlier, the analyst is looking for clear and convincing evidence that the employee should not be disqualified from employment. The Agency will consider the following:
- The circumstances surrounding the criminal incident(s) for which an exemption is sought;
- The time period that has elapsed since the incident(s);
- The nature of the harm caused to the victim;
- The history of the employee since the incident(s);
- Any other evidence or circumstances indicating that the employee will not present a danger if employed or continued employment is allowed; and
- Whether the applicant has been arrested for or convicted of another crime, even if that crime is not a disqualifying offense.
Once you’ve submitted your application it takes approximately 30 days for AHCA to render its decision to you. Exemptions granted by one agency will be considered by other agencies, but it is not binding on subsequent agencies. It is possible for AHCA and DOH to deny your application even though you feel you meet the criteria for an exemption. In those instances, our firm will represent you before AHCA and DOH Boards if you chose to contest the Agency decision. You have 21 days from the date you sign for the certified letter to request an appeal. The administrative law judge will only decide whether the agency’s intended action is an abuse of discretion.
Are you allowed to continue to work for your employer after you’ve submitted the application for Exemption from Disqualification? It depends on the circumstances. If you were screened and hired by your current employer on or before June 30, 2014 and this disqualification was due to a rescreening by the same employer, you may continue work if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You are eligible to apply for exemption;
- Your disqualifying offense was not disqualifying at the time of your last screening, but is now disqualifying and was committed before the date of your last screening;
- Your employer agrees that you may continue working; and
- You submit your application timely.
According to Florida Statute, 408.809(4) an employee may continue to perform her duties and her employer may continue to allow her to have contact with any vulnerable person (i.e. physical therapy patients) that would place employee in a role that requires background screening while her application for exemption from disqualification by the agency is being processed and under review. You also must make sure that your license stays active if you are a licensed healthcare provider, which means that you should submit any renewal forms and correct any omissions to prevent your license from expiring.
It should be noted that I am not your lawyer (unless you have presently retained my services through a retainer agreement). This post is not intended as legal advice, it is purely educational and informational, and no attorney-client relationship shall result after reading it. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice. If you do not have one and would like to retain my legal services please contact me using the contact information listed above.
All of the information and references made to laws, rules, regulations, and advisory opinions were accurate based on the law as it existed at this time, but laws are constantly evolving. Please contact me to be sure that the law which will govern your business is current. Thank you.