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Anitere Flores, R-Miami, confers with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, as they listen to a presentation on Lake Okeechobee Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Influence

Health care is sticking point in budget talks

With just hours before a deadline to finalize a state budget, a stalemate over health-care spending could push this year’s legislative session into overtime.

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairwoman Anitere Flores confirmed that health care is the hold-up but did not get into details. However, one key difference between the House and Senate has been how they would spread Medicaid funding to hospitals.

Another key difference has been money for nursing homes — the Senate wants to increase Medicaid spending for nursing homes by $130 million.

Flores said the “House and Senate are working together to come up with hospital funding that takes into account the concerns of each chamber,” and that the House and Senate are “working together.”

As of Tuesday morning, legislative leaders had not held a public meeting for two days to discuss the budget, but lobbyists say nearly all spending items have been worked out. The budget needs to be available for review for 72 hours before lawmakers may take a vote. That means if lawmakers are to end the session as scheduled Friday, the budget needs to be finalized sometime Tuesday.

Health-care lobbyist Bill Rubin remained optimistic that will occur. “My gut tells me they will both move toward the other for a final solution,” said Rubin, whose health care clients include HCA Healthcare, among others.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley also expressed optimism.

“We’ve made incredible progress over the past several days,” Bradley said in a text message. “The finish line is in sight. All areas of the budget are essentially completed, with the exception of hospital funding.”

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