Suit aims to force Pa. to keep low-income coverage

HARRISBURG - A Pittsburgh law firm has filed a lawsuit to force the state to continue to provide health-care coverage for 42,000 low-income adults whose insurance program ended last month.

The suit, filed Monday in Commonwealth Court and seeking class-action status, charges that Gov. Corbett does not have the authority to end the decade-old program, known as adultBasic, because its funding from the state is stipulated under law.

Named in the suit are Corbett, the state House and Senate, and members of the Corbett administration.

Attorneys for three Pittsburgh plaintiffs said the state violated both the Pennsylvania Constitution and state law by failing to use tobacco-settlement money to keep the program alive as stipulated under the 2001 Pennsylvania Tobacco Settlement Act.

"Gov. Corbett and the Pennsylvania legislature are in blatant violation of the law, and the only way to hold them accountable is to take them to court," said William Caroselli of Caroselli, Beachler, McTiernan & Conboy, which is representing the three plaintiffs. "Pennsylvania receives significant payments from the tobacco settlements every year, and state law mandates that those proceeds go toward making Pennsylvanians healthier, and that a portion be specifically directed to fund adultBasic."

The Pennsylvania Tobacco Settlement Act states that 30 percent of the proceeds was to be shared between adultBasic Insurance and Medicaid for workers with disabilities.

Corbett, in a brief statement, defended his decision and said he believed he would prevail in court.

"The lawsuit is without merit and will be successfully defended in court," Corbett said. "The fiscal reality is that adultBasic is not a financially sustainable program."

Corbett has said he had no choice but to pull the plug on adultBasic when money ran out last month and the Blue Cross Blue Shield companies ended their contributions to the fund.

The state is anticipating an estimated $370 million in payments from major tobacco companies on April 15. Caroselli is asking the court to put a hold on the payments until the suit is settled. The annual payments are the result of a 1998 settlement with 46 states, including Pennsylvania, over medical costs from smoking-related disease.

 


Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.