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Hospitals escape Senate cuts; mental health hit

Spending cuts to health programs will be less than half as much as forecast in the Senate budget, that chamber’s health-spending chief announced Thursday.

Now, the Senate Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations will have to cut only $390 million from current spending levels, rather than the more-draconian $850 million that had originally been assigned, said Sen. Joe Negron, chair of the panel.

Negron thanked Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Sen. J.D. Alexander, chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, for reducing the cuts by more than half.

Negron said hospitals and nursing homes' Medicaid pay rates may be touched only lightly, if at all. Instead, Negron said, he intends to eliminate behavioral-health programs that are not performing up to expectations.

He said the Department of Children and Families has agreed with a suggestion by Sen. Don Gaetz: to rank the mental health and substance abuse programs by how well they do their job, and take away all funding from the poorest performers.

Crisis stabilization and detox units for adults will keep their current funding levels, Negron said, and he does not intend to cut children’s programs.

The subcommittee will meet on Wednesday of next week, when the budget will be ready for discussion and will take public testimony that day and the next, Negron said.

--Health News Florida is an independent, online publication dedicated to public-service journalism. Editor Carol Gentry can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.