Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rising Costs of Medicaid Looming

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rising Costs of Medicaid Looming

Article excerpt

CAPITAL COMMENT

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida may be heading toward its version of the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day," with the Legislature and state budget in the prime roles.

Much to the chagrin of Gov. Rick Scott, state economists this week projected the state will need an additional $500 million in the next budget year to meet the growing caseloads of Floridians on Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled. Analysts foreshadowed that need last month when they projected Medicaid caseloads will peak at more than 4 million this year, meaning one in five Floridians is depending on that health care program.

Before that, the managed-care companies that provide Medicaid services to Floridians said they needed a double-digit rate increase because of growing costs, including the price of drugs.

Last month, economists projected another 26,000 students in the coming budget year will join the 2.8 million

children already enrolled in Florida's public schools, representing another automatic cost that lawmakers will have to meet when they build the 2016-17 budget early next year.

Lawmakers already know that funding for a federal program that pays for uncompensated care in Florida hospitals will drop by 40 percent in the coming year, from $1 billion to $600 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year. It is likely to reignite the debate over finding another way to provide health care coverage to low-income Floridians, which the Senate advanced but was rebuffed by the House and Scott in the 2015 session.

Other financial demands will face the Legislature, ranging from a troubled prison system that still needs funding to repair aging facilities and beef up its staff to a court system that has faced erratic funding and is currently experiencing cutbacks in services because of a financial shortfall.

Against the backdrop of those financial needs, Scott will renew his push for tax cuts, which will likely include a permanent end to a manufacturing tax and another cut in the communications tax on cell phones, although each of those could be costly. …

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