Tobacco funds could save state health care, says auditor general

Pennsylvania has burned through over $1 billion in tobacco settlement money that has floated away like a plume of smoke from its original mission.

At least, that’s what Auditor General Jack Wagner says.

“Today is a clarion call about where we’re going in the future,” said Wagner.

The tobacco settlement sends $370 million a year to Pennsylvania – money that used to fund adultBasic and smoking cessation programs. But Wagner said former Governor Ed Rendell and the legislature diverted it elsewhere behind closed budgetary doors.

“In order for this to happen, you had to have the agreement of the governor and a bipartisan agreement in the House and Senate,” he said. “For it to change, you need the same.”

Wagner also said $370 million a year will come to Pennsylvania for the next 15 years. He thinks it should fund a new adultBasic, low-cost insurance option for low-income Pennsylvanians. He said there needs to be more public input and less of a politician feeding frenzy.

“If that account still existed, we would not only have a funding stream for 40,000 for adultBasic,” he said, “we’d have a funding stream for 100,000 for adultBasic.”


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