Major health budget issues remain in limbo

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The fate of more than $42 billion in spending on health and human services programs remained in limbo after House and Senate budget negotiators were unable to reach agreement by Monday night.

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told The News Service of Florida late Monday that the health and human services budget had been bumped to top House and Senate leaders to be resolved.

One of the substantial differences is whether Florida will extend Medicaid benefits for postpartum women for up to a year, a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

The House and Senate spending proposals also include vast differences on hospital and nursing home spending.

A conference committee on the health and human services budget met only once in public, with the Senate extending an initial offer on Saturday. When the committee did not resolve the issues by Monday night, the budget was sent to Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and House Appropriations Chairman Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City.

Lawmakers need to resolve all spending differences by April 27 if they hope to end the 60-day legislative session on time. State law requires the budget to be completely finished 72 hours before a final vote. The session is scheduled to end April 30.