Mar 13, 2015 5:07 PM
Kevin Landrigan: HHS official warns of 'profound impacts' from budget cut target
CONCORD - The state's top health and human services official warns House budget writers proposed cuts would have "profound impacts'' on families needing assistance, providers and local property taxes.
NH1 News exclusively obtained a memo Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas wrote to Merrimack Republican State Rep. Richard Barry.
Barry chairs the working group that is putting together a proposed House budget responding to the $11.5 billion two-year spending plan Gov. Maggie Hassan submitted last month.
The House working group asked Toumpas to show what would happen with a flat-financed spending plan for the next two years based on the $574 million adjusted level for the current budget year that ends June 30.
Hassan's budget request is $165 million more than the House proposal, $75 million in the first year and $90 million in the second.
"The impacts of the options have profound impacts on the people and the families we serve, the communities in which they reside, the provider communities who deliver the services as well as the shifting of costs to other domains including local and county government,'' Toumpas wrote.
t's important to note Barry's request does not represent a final spending level for the House budget but rather was a request for planning purposes.
But the HHS response underlines the view of agency officials and Hassan that a spending increase for HHS is unavoidable.
The HHS executive also warned these changes threaten to violate the mission of the agency required under state law.
"Many of the options, if enacted, will impact the department's ability to achieve existing program requirements as established by the Legislature,'' Toumpas wrote.
The agency's management implored House budget writers to consider how a flat-financed budget was not possible given these changes going into the next two-year cycle:
- Lost Medicaid Tax Money: Settling a suit with hospitals mean the state will bring in $80 million less over the next two years compared to the current budget.
- Medicaid Caseloads: A change in eligibility has resulted in more than 30,000 signing up for the New Hampshire Health Protection Program as well as many more who had previously been eligible now coming forward. The agency estimates the additional state costs will be $20 million-$40 million over the next two years.
- Community Mental Health Settlement: Attorney General Joe Foster settled a federal lawsuit with advocates that commits the state to invest in $23 million more to expand the network of community services.
Along with specific cuts, Toumpas said his agency would need to pursue charging fees to non-custodial parents to cover the state costs of collecting child support and to raise assessments against hospitals and nursing homes.
These are some of the proposed cuts:
- Drug and alcohol abuse grants: $3.5 million.
- Family planning: $1.6 million.
- Senior Services: $10.6 million.
- Emergency Shelters: $8 million.
- Developmental Services: $25 million.