Portion of Tobacco Funds Must Support Health Care for Poor, Court Rules

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A Commonwealth Court judge has ruled that the diversion of tobacco settlement funds away from health care for low-income Pennsylvanians violated the state Constitution. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more this morning:

A state judge has ordered the Corbett administration to reinstate funding for programs that provided health insurance to tens of thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians.

In his ruling Tuesday, Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini found that two statutes that stripped money from the adultBasic and Medicaid programs were unconstitutional because they diverted money from the federal tobacco settlement to finance items other than health care in the general budget.

"This is a significant victory for people in Pennsylvania who work hard and play by the rules, but can't afford private insurance," said William R. Caroselli, a lawyer whose firm represented more than 100 former adultBasic recipients in the suit that triggered the ruling.

"AdultBasic was created to help the working poor. It's not a handout, and it presents no cost to the taxpayers. What the administration did was reprehensible, and we are pleased that the Commonwealth Court ordered them to reinstate this important program."

AdultBasic was created in 2002 to provide affordable health coverage to low-income working Pennsylvanians who either lacked job-based coverage or were denied outright because of pre-existing health conditions.

Governor Corbett, shortly after taking office in 2011, ended the adultBasic program rather than renegotiate a funding agreement between the commonwealth and Pennsylvania’s four Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans to continue providing support for the program. More than 40,000 Pennsylvanians lost their adultBasic coverage and joined the ranks of the uninsured. Many have struggled to live without health coverage.

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