Court rules for plaintiffs in adultBasic suit
Commonwealth Court ruled on Tuesday in favor of plaintiffs, including six Mon-Yough residents, in a March 2011 case challenging the state's use of tobacco settlement funds.
The court's President Judge Dan Pellegrini declared unconstitutional decisions by Gov. Tom Corbett's administration and the General Assembly to end adultBasic health insurance for 41,000 lower-income adults and divert funds from the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities program.
“The attorneys called me and I cried,” said Sheryl Sears, 65, of McKeesport, lead plaintiff in the adultBasic class action suit filed by the law firm of Caroselli, Beachler, McTiernan & Conboy.
Defendants included Corbett, budget secretary Charles Zogby, treasurer Rob McCord, House speaker Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, and Senate president pro tem Joseph Scarnati, R-Brockway.
“This is a significant victory for people in Pennsylvania who work hard and play by the rules, but can't afford private insurance,” attorney William R. Caroselli said.
AdultBasic was established in 2001 and received money from a fund set up by the four largest U.S. tobacco companies in 1998 to resolve a lawsuit by 46 states.
“It confirms what we've been saying,” Caroselli associate David S. Senoff said. “Killing the adultBasic care program was not only mean spirited; it was against the law.”
Pellegrini denied a request to reinstate adultBasic under court supervision and reimburse $200 million diverted away over the past two years.
Still, he directed the defendants to appropriate 30 percent of the tobacco settlement fund to “health investment insurance pursuant to Chapter 13 (adultBasic) and for the purchase of Medicaid benefits for workers with disabilities pursuant to Chapter 15,” the Medicare assistance program.
“I'll take the victory, even though we are not going to get credit from the past,” Sears said.
In December, Sears became eligible for Medicare and now pays $70-$80 a month for secondary coverage from UPMC.
It's more than the $36 she paid monthly for adultBasic, but less than $169 paid each month for Special Care secured in a compromise between the administration and four Blue Cross entities, including Highmark.
“I had to borrow money from family, friends and others,” Sears said.
“We are reviewing the legal and budgetary issues related to the court's ruling,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary in the Governor's Office of General Counsel.
“The court reaffirmed our position that these valuable programs should never have been terminated,” said state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, whose caucus filed a brief supporting the plaintiffs.
Costa's 43rd District constituents include Alicia Rager of Munhall, one of 74 plaintiffs signing on to the adultBasic class action with Sears and fellow McKeesport residents Blanche Hoover, Angela Stetz and Sharon and Becky Thir.
Costa called on Corbett “to commit himself to funding these important programs” and reverse his opposition to an expansion of Medicaid as offered to the states under the federal Affordable Care Act.
McCord agreed about Medicaid expansion, but Americans for Prosperity Pennsylvania director Jennifer Stefano said it would cost Pennsylvania more than $4 billion in new spending through 2021, with no promise of continued help from the federal government.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Paving, electronics upgrades evident at Steel Valley
- Grant to benefit W. Mifflin airport
- Mon Valley steelworkers rally for new contract
- County shuts down Clairton demolition work
- McKeesport’s Minerva Bakery gets spotlight in WQED special
- West Mifflin Area boosts technology
- Homestead violence escalates with second day of shootings
- Mon-Yough water line upgrades will lead to more reliable service
- McKeesport church joins listings on national historic register
- Serra has cause to celebrate as new year starts
- Wilson Christian upgrades facility