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Federal cuts threaten program closures, staff reductions at health department

March 14, 2013

TACOMA, WA - Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is facing a budget cut of more than $1.6 million because of Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match federal funding formula changes. The federal funding reimburses the Department for services it provides to low-income people who receive Medicaid.

Despite ongoing negotiations between the state and the federal government, the Department recently received news that funding will be cut to half of the former match, and the change is retroactive to July of 2012.

This significant budget cut from the Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match program means that 20 or more positions in maternal child health and community programs may be impacted, which would include reducing the number of hours of positions or eliminating positions. The loss of funding also could result in the closure of up to seven Family Support Centers, which serve 38,000 people throughout Pierce County by connecting them with parenting services, home nurse visiting and other resources.

“This is a painful process,” said Director Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH. “Staff tirelessly negotiated with the state and federal government for a year, developed contingency plans, and made difficult decisions. Those who will be impacted do important work in our community as we work to safeguard and enhance the health of our residents; under different circumstances, we would make different decisions.”

While final program and staff changes would not occur until May 1, the Health Department is in the process of working through many details regarding the extent of the specific impacts.

On March 4, Department leaders met with staff members whose positions may be impacted, as well as community partners that operate Family Support Centers.

The Board of Health will review a budget amendment and consider possible scenarios to absorb the cuts at its March 20 study session. The Board will hear public testimony and take vote on the budget amendment, which includes accepting the $1.6 million reduction, at its April 3 regular meeting.

The health department funding reduction is part of a $8.5 million statewide cut, which will impact local health jurisdictions. This funding cut is separate and distinct from any future federal funding cuts that may occur as a result of the sequester.

The funding formula changes will impact state and local governments and their subcontractors that claim reimbursement for administrative activities that are “necessary for the efficient administration of the State’s Medicaid program.” The federal government pays a minimum of 50 percent of the cost of performing these activities on behalf of the Medicaid population. The state or local government pays the rest.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services manages the Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match program.

Contacts: Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager, (253) 798-2853, ejeffers@tpchd.org

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to safeguard and enhance the health of the communities of Pierce County. As part of its mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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