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Wagner Calls on Corbett to Revive adultBasic

By Christina Gongaware, Contributing Writer

Although adultBasic officially expired last Monday, Pennsylvania Auditor Jack Wagner is still urging Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers to reinstate funds from a 1998 settlement with cigarette manufacturers back into the program.

Wagner held a special press conference on Thursday and released a report that pointed to former Gov. Ed Rendell as the reason that a total of $1.3 billion, initially used for health-related uses, was redirected to cover other general uses.

He also slammed Gov. Corbett, and said that public hearings should be held if Corbett wants to use the funds in other areas.

“Because we’re still stuck in the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, now is not the time for the state government to be eliminating or reducing its commitment to help hardworking Pennsylvanians get the medical assistance they need,” Wagner said.

Though the Tobacco Settlement Act of 1998 specifically listed the ways in which PA should use the money, the mandates were overridden as money was also taken from tobacco cessation activities and from a special endowment intended to aid future Pennsylvanians.

The payments began in 2001 and the law is still in the books. It states that 30 percent of the state’s annual payment ($360 million) should be set aside for the adultBasic program and for health care for disabled workers.

Beginning in 2005, funds for the program began to be redirected. Though it received $112 million in 2003-2004, in 2010 only $21.7 million in funds were allocated to the program.

“It is unconscionable that this account, designed to provide funding for health-related programs if and when the annual settlement payments decreased or stopped, has essentially been raided to cover General Fund budget shortfalls,” Wagner said.

PA auditors discovered that $432.4 million from the settlement was used for unspecified purposes, $121 million for obligations to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, and $795.3 million for Medicaid obligations.

Those covered by adultBasic paid a $36 monthly premium that covered mainly major surgeries, and did not include either prescription drugs or dental coverage. 400,000 people were also on the waiting list for the program. About 63 percent enrolled in the program were women who were mainly employed but lacked health benefits. In 2010, the program cost a total of $163 million. Since 2005 under Gov. Ed Rendell, nonprofit Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies have given roughly $1 billion for the program, though they decided to end their participation at the end of 2010.

Pennsylvanians will know the fate of the program on Tuesday as Corbett reveals his annual budget. However, Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Corbett, said that the administration has no plans to revive adultBasic.

5 Responses

  1. I am one of those women. Corbett is a PUBLIC SERVANT taking my money without my permission. I want him imprisoned, impeached or both.Never be allowed to have health insurance!!!! Who the hell does he think he is. thats right people in government can do whatever the hell they want. Stealing money and bullshitting the public. One of the many many poor american’s he shits on.

  2. maybe i should quit my job and go on walfare it dosnt pay to work cant get foodstamps,medical or dental health coverage it must be nice to get help with everything while siting on your butt doing nothing

  3. Jack Wagner is just a voice crying in the wilderness…unlikely to be heard. The fact that the money from the tobacco settlement was illegally diverted to feed the bloated pension requirements of more public employees is not a surprise. Look at what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states. Those unions are very powerful lobbies with a lot of political influence.

  4. Read the report. Saw the news conference on PCN. Can’t say that my impression was that Wagner ‘slammed’ anybody. He laid out the facts. Also, seems to me that Wagner is the only public official in the last three years to keep putting out ideas for solving problems that taxpayers can understand and assess for themselves.
    Ed delinked Adultbasic from a stable, dependable and ongoing funding source. That move put it at risk.

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