Just hours before the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to radically revise the nation's health care system, former President Obama's chief health care official warned that the cuts to Medicaid will hurt states like Massachusetts, triggering budget deficits.

In a telephone interview from Worcester, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said federal Medicaid dollars provide coverage for 40 percent of the nation's children, 40 percent of nursing home patients, and half of all births.

"So a cut like Congress is currently proposing would have really devastating effects on not only very vulnerable population, but also on state budgets around the country," Sebelius told WGBH News Thursday.

The Senate must approve the House action. NPR reports:

Whether the Senate will go along with the House measure is another story. Few Senate Republicans have expressed any interest in the House plan, and it's expected to be significantly altered when it reaches that chamber. And polls have shown the GOP measure to be extremely unpopular with voters, potentially placing at risk the political careers of lawmakers who back it.

Nevertheless, the House plan would leave states that have robust Medicaid programs, like Massachusetts, out of luck if the funds it relies on dry up.

Gov. Charlie Baker has estimated that the GOP plan could eliminate $1 billion from the state's budget. Massachusetts can't fill the gap itself and that means Baker and legislative Democrats may need to make harsh cuts to what care the state offers.

As if to illustrate what a dicey proposition that could be for Beacon Hill, it was revealed Wednesday that the state is already facing a 2.2 percent shortfall attributed to lower than forecast tax receipts. 

"I think it's fair to say that no state in the country has the resources to make up for the kind of cuts that Congress is talking about. States will - and governors and Legislators... will have to make terrible choices, about whether or not to support individuals who are in nursing homes or to cut pregnant moms and their kids," Sebelius said.

Sebelius said the state could negotiate a waiver to some of the specifics of the Republican plan, but there may not be much flexibility in a new law to let Massachusetts do things too differently.

Cutting states' medicaid funding, according to Sebelius, "fundamentally blows up a long history of state-federal partnership." She worries that the "target" of the bill is the population of Americans that use government subsidized health care.

"The so-called savings that the federal government would receive over the next ten years, the money they will save not providing health and support for these very vulnerable Americas is supposed to be used to cut the taxes of wealthy corporations and the richest Americans in the country," Sebelius said.

The former Kansas governor was in Worcester Thursday to address the annual conference of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers.