Court denies petition to freeze adultBasic’s tobacco funds

A Commonwealth Court judge on Thursday denied a petition to freeze millions in tobacco-settlement money that had been paying for a health-insurance program but that Gov. Tom Corbett is now directing to the state’s general fund.

Pennsylvania is expected to get an estimated $370 million in tobacco-settlement funds, and a portion of it was to help pay for adultBasic, which provided health insurance for people who do not qualify for Medicaid but who cannot afford private insurance.

The program was projected to cost more than $160 million this fiscal year and was funded with tobacco money and donations from Blue Cross Blue Shield companies that also administer it.

AdultBasic ran out of money at the end of February, and Mr. Corbett said the state could no longer afford it. He redirected the tobacco money, which comes via a 1998 settlement with cigarette companies, to the general fund.

“The bottom line is that the commonwealth can continue as planned,” said Kevin Harley, a spokesman for the governor.

Though the petition for a preliminary injunction was denied, a class-action lawsuit seeking to restore adultBasic remains active.

“Despite today’s ruling, we remain optimistic that we will be successful in restoring the adultBasic program,” said David Senoff, a lead attorney for the 75 plaintiffs who sued Mr. Corbett and the Legislature.

“Today’s result does not change the fact that we believe that the state inappropriately eliminated a successful program that provided affordable health-care coverage to tens of thousands of working Pennsylvanians without using any taxpayer money,” Mr. Senoff said. “We look forward to making our case in court.”

The lawsuit argues that Mr. Corbett needs approval from the Legislature to redirect the tobacco money. The preliminary injunction would have required the state treasurer to hold the tobacco money rather than turn it over to the governor.

About 41,000 people lost health insurance when adultBasic was cut off, but nearly half of them might qualify for Medicaid coverage.

The state Insurance Department said Wednesday it would send letters to former adultBasic recipients to let them know they might be eligible for Medicaid.

source: www.post-gazette.com

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