Battles over health-care spending and regulation of Florida’s vast health-care industry are likely to command a great deal of time and attention when the Florida Legislature convenes in January for its annual Session.

Lawmakers are again expected to engage in a tug-of-war about what type of regulations should be in place for health care facilities, but a main focus will be on Florida’s strained safety-net health program at a time of tight state finances.

Florida’s Medicaid program already costs $26 billion and covers an estimated 4 million people.

A July snapshot by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that Medicaid along with a major children’s health-insurance program provide coverage to two out of every five low-income people in the state, half the state’s children and more than three-fifths of all nursing home residents.

The bulk of money for Medicaid comes from the federal government, but this year more than $6 billion comes from general revenue, the state’s main budget account funded primarily by sales taxes.

House Health Care Appropriations Chairman Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, said hurricanes Irma and Maria put “a bit of a strain” on the budget he oversees, and as a result that could hamper any requests for new social-services spending.

“From the explicit costs of providing more health and human services to a larger than anticipated population, to the implicit costs of things like the overtime paid to our (state employees) who are in charge of registering and providing (benefits) to all those new enrollees, all of those costs must be paid for before we can start looking at new programs,” he said.

Nevertheless, Brodeur said members have filed more than 200 requests to fund local projects “which is the exact opposite of `small government.’ ”

During

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