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.
“You have all the discussions about the fiscal cliff, you have all these discussions about sequestration, even short of that we are anticipating significant federal cuts,” he said. “The climate, everything that we're being told from our affiliates and partners in the federal government are saying you need to start preparing for these cuts. What they can't tell us is what areas they'll come in. They can't tell us if it would be across the board or if it would be the elimination of certain programs so it makes it very, very challenging to prepare for that.”
The funding formula
Oklahoma is expected to receive about $226 million in federal funds this fiscal year. Legislators have appropriated $62 million for the agency for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The agency also is projected to get about $80 million from its revolving fund.
Cline said the Health Department, which received an additional $1.7 million in state money last year, will seek an additional $700,000 for its infant mortality prevention programs.
Cline said the Health Department may have to seek state funds to make up for significant federal cuts.
“Potentially you could have us coming back to the Legislature depending on the nature of those cuts,” he said. “We may need your help down the road.”