I know that at OHA we are all acutely aware that our state has not come out of the recession as fast as any of us had hoped. We see the results of the economic challenges facing Oregon families due to joblessness or underemployment.
We do not yet know how this will affect the revenues available to pay for public services. To prepare in case there are serious declines below recent years, the state Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) has asked all state agencies to provide a list of possible reduction options. They requested a list of a total of 10.5 percent in reduction options below the 2011-13 legislatively adopted budget level.
The agency lists are a starting place for lawmakers if they are faced with the task of further reducing the state budget should there be continued shortfalls in the days to come. The list will be looked at in the context of the entire state budget rather than in isolation of one agency.
Before sending a list to LFO, we have prepared a public draft. It is posted on our website here where people can also provide comment.
This draft list is divided by OHA division or program area and there has been no prioritization. Feedback should concentrate on whether there are alternative reductions that would help the agency achieve the savings target, and prioritization of services if possible.
The economic reality of our state has already brought deep reductions to health care services and there may be more difficult choices ahead. Reaching a 10.5 percent General Fund reduction below the 2011-13 budget would result in more than $188.4 million in General Fund reductions for OHA.
In approaching this assignment, the Oregon Health Authority worked under the following guiding principles:
- Maintain access to vital health services wherever possible;
- Continue administrative reductions from 2011-13 and make further administrative reductions of 10 percent;
- Be lean and efficient in supporting client services.
That said, the reality is that 93 percent of the OHA budget goes to direct client services, so reductions would mean further cuts to services beyond what have already been taken this year.
I want to stress that this is an exercise, not a budget reduction. Any decisions would be made by the Legislature and they would be in context of the entire state budget. Our next step is to send a final prioritized list to LFO. That list will be posted on the website over the next few weeks.
But I know it is also troubling to think about more reductions as we face increased demand for services and the challenges of transforming the health care delivery system. We do not yet know what the future will bring but what we can control today is the work we do and how we treat each other. I promise that I will keep you informed every step of the way and am always keeping in mind the value we hold at OHA for our clients and our staff.