Oklahoma Health Department braces for federal cuts

Oklahoma's health commissioner tells a legislative panel that cuts in federal funds, which make up 60 percent of the agency's budget, could range from 8 to 20 percent. Cuts on the higher end could potentially eliminate services and positions across the state, he said.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: January 29, 2013
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Estimated federal cuts to Oklahoma's health department, which is heavily dependent on federal money, could potentially eliminate services and positions across the state, Health Commissioner Terry Cline warned a legislative panel Monday.

Current estimates of cuts range from 8 to 20 percent, he told members of the House of Representatives budget subcommittee on public health and social services.

“Cuts at the upper end of this range would be devastating for the department,” Cline said.

The department receives about 60 percent of its $368 million operating budget from various federal sources, he said.

“Significant reductions in these monies would have a dramatic impact on services, personnel and on the department's ability to accomplish the public health mission,” Cline said.

“Because we are incredibly dependent on federal funding, any reductions in federal funding could have a significant impact.”

Federal officials have told Health Department officials the agency could lose 10 percent of its federal funds through automatic spending cuts that could take effect in March unless Congress and the president reach a deal.

Overall the state could lose about $137 million through the sequestration process.

Federal reductions would affect many of the department's children's health programs, including Women Infants and Children, child abuse prevention and newborn hearing screening.

A 10 percent federal reduction would result in 50,400 fewer clients receiving Women, Infants and Children aid each year, Cline said.

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