Gov. Wolf's budget proposal eliminates 500-plus health positions
Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | 02.07.17
Photo by Pa Internet News Service
Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address on Tuesday, February 7th.
(Harrisburg) -- When Governor Tom Wolf recently announced a plan to consolidate four state agencies, his administration didn't have much detail about how it would impact state employees.
But now, it's more clear.
The governor's proposed budget calls for eliminating more than 500 positions.
It's part of a plan to consolidate the departments of Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services into one Department of Health and Human Services. That strategy would save an estimated $100 million, according to Governor Wolf's budget.
Budget Secretary Randy Albright says he's confident only modest furloughs would be necessary to cut the positions.
He says early retirements and frequent turnover should help reduce positions before any layoffs.
Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas says he's confident it won't affect people who need help.
"Managing that reduction by about 500 is something that we can do, and is something that we do and we manage every day," says Dallas.
"We have a lot of turnover, and it's really about managing that complement responsibly," he adds.
The Department of Human Services is already the largest in the commonwealth - it's in charge of Medicaid, food stamps, children's health insurance through CHIP, and more. If four agencies are all wrapped together, the new agency will be even larger.
Sarah Galbally, Wolf's Secretary of Policy and Planning, says the consolidation will be more than moving boxes.
"What we're trying to do is break down silos and not fit three agencies into one, so really re-thinking about how we deliver services," she says.
If the consolidation goes forward, it would take effect at the start of the new of the new fiscal year in July.
Republican leaders have pushed for consolidation, while Senate Democrats say they want to see how many people will lose their jobs.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says while the plan is strong, any layoffs will raise concerns.
"But that's going to become a factor that we'll have to consider. That's always something that's at the forefront of our minds," says Costa.
Some advocates have also raised concerns a new larger department won't be able to give attention to so many different issues, but Secretary Dallas says now is the right time.
"If you look at a lot of initiatives that are already underway, those things have already started to happen, and I think this is in a lot of ways could be the next logical step in that process," he says.
If the governor's consolidation plan is approved, a new department could be up and running by the start of the new fiscal year in July.
Other changes in the Governor's budget proposal
- Close some of the state's 55 health centers, and relocate nurses to county assistance offices or county health departments (estimated $15 million in savings)
- Increase child abuse clearance fees from $8 to $13
- Increase death certificate fees from $9 to $20
- Add $10 million for naloxone for first-responders
- Add $3.4 million for drug courts that are popular, but have faced some criticism
- Increase funding for intellectual disabilities treatment by $26.2 million
- Secure $26.5 million grant from the federal CURES Act, a new law passed by Congress late last year
Published in Healthcare Transformation