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

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. 

One of the big issues facing lawmakers again this year is the cost of health care.

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.

Carson Cooper has become a favorite of WUSF listeners as the host of "Morning Edition" on WUSF 89.7 since he took the job in 2000. Carson has worked in Tampa Bay radio for three decades.
Lottie Watts is our Florida Mattersproducer, and she also covers health and health policy for.
Public radio. Public health. Public policy.