Late last week, Representative Dick Barry, Chairman of Division III of the House Finance Committee, which has responsibility for those portions of the state budget supporting health and human services, indicated that the Division would seek to reduce spending in those areas by a total of more than $280 million relative to Governor Hassan’s recommended FY 2016-2017 budget. The Division began to move toward that goal on Sunday and Monday of this week, adopting changes to the Governor’s proposal that would reduce General Fund spending by more than $95 million, affecting programs vital to thousands of low-income and vulnerable Granite Staters and resulting in the loss of more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds.
Among some of the more notable changes approved by the Division to date include:
The failure to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program – Under current law, the Health Protection Program, which presently serves approximately 37,000 low-income adults, is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2016. Governor Hassan’s budget includes provisions to make the program permanent, while leaving in place protections against the potential loss of federal funds. The Division removed those provisions, which means that in 2017 tens of thousands of Granite Staters will be denied access to affordable health care.
The termination of key services for adult Medicaid beneficiaries – The Division chose to reduce General Fund spending for Medicaid by $8.6 million in FY 2017 by terminating a variety of vital services for adults participating in New Hampshire’s existing Medicaid program. With the Division’s decision, they would lose access to ambulance, optometric, audiology, psychology, and personal care services, as well as physical, speech, and occupational therapy.
A $10.5 million reduction in social services for the elderly – These services are currently provided through the Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services and include home-delivered meals, transportation, and caregiver supports. This cut amounts to a 50 percent reduction relative to the amount included in Governor Hassan’s proposed budget.
The elimination of ServiceLink – To realize General Fund savings of $2.6 million over the biennium, the Division elected to eliminate ServiceLink, which provides assistance with long-term care services for the elderly and people with disabilities.
A $4 million reduction in support for emergency homeless shelters – According to the Department of Health and Human Services, such funding helped to support 42 shelter programs, serving 4,760 people FY 2014. Governor Hassan’s proposed FY 2016-2017 budget recommended a total $8 million General Fund expenditure, so the Division’s decision amounts to halving the amount of funds available for these purposes.
In addition to the impact these changes would have on the well-being of the sick, the elderly, and the homeless in New Hampshire, many would also trigger the loss of significant amounts of federal funds. For example, the failure to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program beyond its currently scheduled termination date will mean New Hampshire will receive roughly $240 million less in federal funds in FY 2017.