State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein told legislators Friday that it would be impossible to reduce enhancements, vacant jobs, supplies and travel at his agency without impacting medical care.
Greenstein went before the Senate Finance Committee to talk about the impact of the Louisiana House’s changes to House Bill 1, the $25 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Some Republicans in the House disagree with the governor’s push to use one-time money to pay recurring expenses. They contend it is irresponsible to rely on dollars that likely will materialize once and purged them from the budget.
The changes to HB1 include directing the Jindal administration to make additional reductions in areas such as travel, enhancements, vacant job and supplies.
Tackling each category separately, Greenstein sought to illustrate to legislators why cuts in those areas would be unrealistic.
“We are lean and mean as we’ve never been before,” he said.
Greenstein said cutting enhancements would delay the recall of contaminated food from grocery store shelves and impact the testing and treatment of tuberculosis.
On vacant positions, he said DHH already plans to eliminate 280 of the 570 unfilled jobs that the House contends could be erased.
Reductions in the combined category of supplies, acquisitions and travel really only impact supplies because little money is spent at DHH on acquisitions and travel, Greenstein said.
He said the agency is not spending millions of dollars on papers and hole punchers. Instead, Greenstein said, cuts to supplies would hit needles, bandages, testing strips, diapers and lightbulbs that are used in parish health units and mental hospitals.
“The cuts were are facing as health care providers are real,” said Sean Prados, executive vice president of the Louisiana Hospital Association, a not-for-profit organization that represents hospitals and health care systems across the state.
Prados said health care providers are grappling with proposed state funding reductions as well as cutbacks at the federal level.
He said critical health care services and jobs are at stake.