AHCA may withdraw an incomplete renewal application without granting a stay

– Summary by Anna Lusk

On February 24, the Supreme Court of Florida considered if the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has the authority to withdraw a party’s application for a renewal license without allowing said party to pause proceedings (i.e., grant presumptive stay). AHCA v. Ybor Medical Injury & Accident Clinic, Inc. (SC20-1814). The court concluded that where a party applies to renew its license, and AHCA deems that the application is incomplete, AHCA may withdraw the incomplete renewal license application, without granting stay, from further consideration as mandated by Florida Statute § 408.806(3)(b).

Ybor, a Medical Injury and Accident Clinic, has been in operation for nineteen years. In September 2019, the clinic applied to AHCA to renew its expiring license. When AHCA determined that Ybor’s application was incomplete, AHCA determined that by law, Ybor should supplement its application. Ybor failed to supplement its application, and AHCA administratively withdrew the application from further consideration as prescribed under Florida Statute § 408.806(3)(b). Ybor appealed the administrative withdrawal to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal, seeking to pause proceedings and to undo AHCA’s withdraw of their application under Florida Statute § 120.68(3). Ybor argued to the Second District Court of Appeal that Florida Statute § 120.68(3) requires an agency to grant a party the opportunity to “stay” (pause) legal proceedings if the agency acted in a way which had the effect of suspending or revoking a license. The Second District Court ruled that the agency’s actions did, in fact, have the effect of revoking / suspending a license. The Court granted Ybor stay. This decision conflicts with a ruling coming from the First District Court of Appeal. See Beach Club Adult Center, LLC v. Agency for Health Care Administration.

To resolve the conflict between the courts, the Supreme Court focused its analysis on the text of the statute at hand. The text says that presumptive stay applies to an agency decision that “has the effect of suspending or revoking a license.” See Florida Statute § 120.68(3). The Supreme Court asserted that it needed to define “suspending” and “revoking” by their ordinary meanings to decide this case. The court found that by their ordinary meanings, the agency DID NOT in effect suspend or revoke Ybor’s license by withdrawing their incomplete application because Ybor’s current, valid license could still be used for two more years. While the court noted that AHCA’s withdrawal of the incomplete application may have severe consequences for Ybor, it did not, by definition of the statute, revoke or suspend Ybor’s existing license. The Supreme Court ruled that AHCA’s withdrawal of the application did not trigger the presumptive stay provision of the statute. Therefore, the agency correctly withdrew the application and correctly denied Ybor stay.