A "Victory for the Working Poor"

Mar 6, 2013

A day after a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the Corbett administration has to spend tobacco settlement proceeds on health care programs such as adultBasic, plantiffs celebrated what they call a victory for the working poor.

AdultBasic, a health insurance plan, launched in 2002 for low-income people earning too much to qualify for Medicaid.  Two years ago, when the Corbett administration cancelled the program, 41,000 people lost their health insurance coverage.

Sheryl Sears, from McKeesport, was one of them. She, along with others, filed a class-action lawsuit, that said the defunding of the state’s program – which was partially funded with tobacco settlement money was unconstitutional.

Yesterday, she won – a judge ruled that for the next fiscal year, 30 percent of tobacco money will have to go to a health investment plan - such as AdultBasic.

“I was so excited. I was so excited I cried. Yeah, I really cried. Because so many people had told me we would never win that, “ she said.

She was 63 when the program was canceled. AdultBasic cost her $36 a month. For two years, she borrowed money from relatives and friends to pay for her new coverage from a private insurer, which cost nearly five times as much. Now 65, she is on Medicare.  

Bill Caroselli, one of her attorneys, says this is not a done deal –he expects Corbett and other entities to file an appeal.

But he says he is optimistic.

“Right now we are in the driver's seat, we are indeed the persons who prevailed before the trial court so we are proceeding on that basis,” he said.

State Treasurer Rob McCord called the ruling a reminder that the current administration has repeatedly used poor judgment in protecting the health of its citizens.