Critics Say Health Department Budget Cuts Target Poor

Wednesday, March 9th 2016, 7:41 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The state Health Department is facing massive budget cuts that could impact thousands of Oklahoman’s ability to get quality medical care.

Samantha Foreman, 20, of Oklahoma City, is nine months pregnant, unemployed and poor. She gets medical care for herself and her unborn son at Variety Care. 

“I come here because, like I said, there’s WIC, there’s Sooner Care, there’s everything in the same building. And that’s one thing I love about this place,” Foreman said. “It’s all free.”

Well, not exactly free. It’s paid for, in part, through state subsidies. But those subsidies will soon end because of budget cuts, likely leading to cuts in programs. 

“So, unfortunately those centers now are going to be without this resource to help cover healthcare services for people who are impoverished and have no other resource,” said Julie Cox-Kain with the state Health Department.

The Health Department must cut $4.2 million from its budget by the end of June. 

So the department is cutting subsidies to federally qualified health centers, and will be closing down at least five of its roughly 80 clinics around the state.

“So people who are located close to those sites that we will be closing will of course have to get their services regionally and we’re hoping that they have the ability to get themselves to the next nearest county health department location,” Cox-Kain said.

Since 2009, the Health Department has taken a roughly 25 percent reduction in state funding.  The exact impact of the latest round of cuts is not yet known, but for the poor who rely on these services, it’s going to hurt. 

“I love this place,” Foreman said. “Everybody here has always been so friendly and nice, and it’s just awesome.”