HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania government officials were trying to determine the impact of a judge's ruling Tuesday that a portion of the state's unspent tobacco settlement money go to the defunct adultBasic health insurance program for lower-income adults or a similar plan, rather than be used to help balance the government budget.
Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini, applying a previous and related court ruling, declared unconstitutional two state laws that siphoned the money from adultBasic and Medicaid for disabled workers.
He threw out state laws passed in 2010 and 2011 that diverted funds from a landmark 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. He denied a request by those who sued that adultBasic be reinstated under court supervision and that some $200 million be reimbursed to the funds from those two years.
The judge noted that Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has said the required portion of the tobacco money is all going to Medicaid, and it was not clear how much would need to be dedicated to an adultBasic type program to comply with his decision.
Pellegrini wrote that some tobacco money must go to adultBasic unless the Legislature changes state law accordingly.
Telephone messages left for lawyers for the dozens of plaintiffs who sued were not immediately returned Tuesday.
The defendants include Corbett, who shut down adultBasic and who has resisted an expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act. His office said it was reviewing the decision.
The other defendants — top-ranking Republicans in the House and Senate and Treasurer Rob McCord — offered no immediate comment.
Corbett pulled the plug on adultBasic shortly after taking office in 2011, saying it was unaffordable. He and fellow Republicans in the General Assembly blamed his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Ed Rendell, for the death of adultBasic, arguing it had relied too heavily on money from health insurers, kept premiums too low and enrolled too many people to be sustainable.
AdultBasic began in 2002 for lower-income working adults who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid or were not old enough for Medicare. It covered major surgery but not dental costs or prescriptions.