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Florida Budget Battle

On May 1, thousands of low income and disabled Floridians will lose medications provided under the states medically needy program. The cuts come at a time when lawmakers are millions apart in negotiating a budget, some are questioning budget priorities.

Vicky Weber has been diagnosed with severe debilitating arthritis. She receives 997 dollars a month in disability. Her $1,800 a month prescription bill is paid by the state's medically needy program.

On may first the state will require medically needy patients like Vicki to pay the first $450 of their income for prescriptions. That will force many to choose between medications and rent or food.

"My blood pressure would probably immediately go through the roof, I would probably end up in the hospital," explains Weber.

The cuts come as state lawmakers wrangle over a budget. Democrats say poor choices, not a lack of money, are the issue.

In one committee chairman's district the House leadership wants to spend $500,000 for speed bumps.

There is also $700,000 for a golf club house in the budget chairman’s home district. Not to be outdone the House speaker has $100,000 for a softball complex, and there are hundreds and millions more dollars tucked away in the budget for special projects.

So we asked Weber what she thought of the budget turkeys.

"I don't know how they would even think that would be a priority over people getting heart medication,” Weber says.

For every $1 the state doesn't spend on the medically needy it loses $2.50 of federal money.

Keeping patients like Vicki healthy until the new budget begins in July costs about $8 million. For all of next year, it would take an additional $61 million.


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