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Florida Matters Preview: State Budget And Rising Drug Costs For Medicaid Patients

Jan 12, 2016

Florida's annual legislative session gets under way today. WUSF News will bring you live coverage of the governor's State of the State address starting today at 11 a.m. This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17 7:30 a.m.), we will feature highlights of the address, along with the Democratic response.  

The only thing lawmakers have to do by law is pass a balanced budget.  How much money they will have to work with depends on whom you ask.  According to Gov. Rick Scott, there's a budget surplus of about $1.6 billion.  The Florida Legislature says it's more like $635 million.

Until they can agree on what it actually is, there will likely be some back-and-forth over Scott’s proposed $1 billion tax cut package. 

Florida state economist Amy Baker said that in spite of expected higher revenue, the cost of health care is also going up, especially the cost of new special drugs for Medicaid patients.

“Hepatitis C, cystic fibrosis, other things -- and they’re extremely costly medications, and so those pharmaceutical costs are  a very significant player,” Baker told the Joint Legislative Budget Commission in Tallahassee when she presented an economic forecast for the next few years in September.

Baker said Medicaid will take up more than one third of Florida's budget in the coming fiscal year.