MU says it wants share of tobacco money
Last year, Missouri had the second-highest rate of smoking in the nation, behind only Kentucky. This year, MU officials are working hard to get money to help prevent smoking and smoking-related illnesses.
The state of Missouri will receive a projected $6.7 billion during the next 25 years as a result of a national tobacco settlement.
Some legislators would like to refund the money to taxpayers, while others would like to see the money used for health care.
The state Senate has until May 12 to decide what will be on the ballot that voters will see later this year.
In its current form, the House bill, which was approved last month, has allocated the first $175 million of settlement money to be invested to make money for the state. The next $175 million will be used to help Missouri seniors purchase pharmaceuticals.
The rest of the money will go toward health care and education. Fifty percent will be spent on health-care services and treatment, 20 percent will go toward medical research, and the rest will be divided between smoking prevention and early childhood programs.
University officials are lobbying to receive a substantial portion of the settlement money.
If they look at us as the major stabilizing institute in Missouri that serves more of Missouri than anyone else, then we should deserve a substantial portion on the money, said Daniel Winship, vice chancellor for health affairs at MU, in a meeting MU officials requested with the Missourian staff.
One of the chief plans for the money is to support a comprehensive cancer center on the MU campus. This center would incorporate basic research laboratories along with outpatient and inpatient facilities.
David Ota, medical director and chief of surgical oncology at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, said officials hope to bridge the gap between research and patient care.
Weâ€™re taking test tubes and mice discoveries right to man, Ota said. Sometimes the closer you are to feeling that pain, the more motivated and creative you become. That is a very potent environment, motivating environment, and stimulating environment, and from that comes discovery.
Winship said the building alone will cost an estimated $40 million, and that doesnâ€™t include people and startup funds. Scientists donâ€™t come cheap, he said.
The overall estimate for the initial development of the center is $70 million. But, Winship added, How big do you want to go?
Other funds, if given to MU, would go toward reimbursing uncompensated care. The University Hospital and Clinics has a $12 million deficit, partly due to declining Medicare reimbursements and escalating expenses in labor, pharmacy and other supplies.
Finally, MU officials hope to use some money for smoking prevention and cessation programs, as well as early childhood development programs.
Do you want to give the money back to the citizens of the state, which is a fine option, or do you want to invest it? Ota said.