Healthy Start funding cut in final hours of session

The 2011-2012 budget passed by the Florida Legislature included a $5.4 million cut in funding for the state Healthy Start program. The last minute reduction was made during final negotiations by the House and Senate Appropriations chairs to bring their respective health & human services budgets into alignment. The cut will eliminate services for more than 20,000 at-risk pregnant women and families statewide.

The impact of the cut on families and Healthy Start agencies in Northeast Florida is yet to be determined. State funding for the program is used as match for federal dollars, meaning additional resources will be lost at the local level. The Florida Department of Health is working to finalize allocations based on the budget adopted by lawmakers.

In other Legislative action, Healthy Start and the MomCare program were included in the final Medicaid reform bill passed early Saturday morning. This preserves Medicaid waiver funding and gives the Healthy Start program an expanded role in ensuring pregnant women have access to the services they need as responsibility for their care is shifted to managed care organizations. The state’s Medicaid Reform proposal still needs to be approved by the federal government and most experts anticipate a lengthy review process prior to implementation.