Budget Issues

More than 30,000 low-income pregnant women and catastrophically ill Floridians could lose their access to medical care under cuts being proposed by the Florida Senate. Lawmakers say it's just getting too expensive to care for these folks.

Bruce Bernstein received a life-saving heart transplant 12 years ago. Now, the state Senate wants to cut all hospital services from the medically needy program Bruce counts on for his health care.

He fears he might reject his transplant.

“Somebody passed away so I could get a miracle. I've received that miracle and now the Legislature wants to take that miracle from me,” says Bruce.

Bernstein and 27,000 other catastrophically ill Floridians depend on medically needy because they're too sick to be eligible for traditional health insurance, but don't qualify for Medicaid. The Senate also wants to eliminate services to 7,000 low-income pregnant women.

Advocates say they can't believe the Senate would be cruel enough to cut services to more than 30,000 pregnant women and medically needy patients. So the question becomes, why threaten cuts that only stress out Florida's most vulnerable citizens?

Senate President Jim King is not sympathetic. He says he doesn't want to use one-time money for bills the state has to pay every year.

“The outcry we're hearing now from those people adversely affected is predicable, and did we know that would occur? Yeah. Are we willing to live with that if we have to? Sure,” says King.

Gov. Jeb Bush signed the bill saving the medically needy program with great fanfare last year. Now, he says it just costs too much.

"The medically needy program is growing far faster than our ability to pay for it.

But to the thousands of Floridians facing the possibility of death or the death of their unborn child, the cost of not funding the programs is much higher. Advocates say the state will lose more than $100 million in matching federal funds if the Legislature cuts the medically needy program.