PA Gov. Ridge Signs Historic Tobacco-Settlement Legislation
HARMARVILLE, Pa., June 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge today signed into law historic legislation to use the state's tobacco settlement to make Pennsylvanians healthier and cement the Commonwealth's status as a national leader in health res
``This new law ensures that every dollar received in the national tobacco settlement will be spent to make Pennsylvanians healthier,'' Gov. Ridge said. ``We will provide health insurance to some 60,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians. We will help more than 10,000 seniors pay for prescription drugs by expanding PACENET.
``And, we will invest $237 million next year in Pennsylvania's world-class biotechnology and medical-research community -- a community that gave the world such breakthroughs as the rubella and polio vaccines -- to develop new medical treatments, and to make Pennsylvania a world leader in these critical economic sectors. It is the most aggressive effort in the nation to build the biotechnology and research industries.''
Gov. Ridge said investments in biotechnology and medical research in the new law include:
A one-time payment of $100 million for three Life-Sciences
``Greenhouses,'' modeled on the Governor's successful Digital Greenhouse in
Pittsburgh. The Greenhouses will be a network of statewide innovation
centers based in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Central Pennsylvania;
``The Greenhouses will be centers for discovery and magnets for talent and
investment,`` Gov. Ridge said. ''We will improve the health of our state
and the health of our economy at the same time.``
A one-time $60 million investment in health venture capital, with an
emphasis on the biotechnology industry. The investment is expected to
attract an additional $180 million to $200 million of co-investments in
Pennsylvania-based biotech businesses; and
$77 million in broad-based health research.
Gov. Ridge signed the tobacco legislation at Cellomics Inc., whose cell-based products and services are designed to help drug-discovery firms rapidly narrow their search during evaluations of new drugs to include only the compounds that are most likely to success in clinical trials. Ultimately, Cellomics' work shortens the testing cycle and increases the probability of clinical success during the new drug trials.
``Cellomics is the kind of young, small biotechnology company that is on the cutting edge of health research and can help spur the discovery and delivery of new life-saving medical treatments for patients across the world,'' Gov. Ridge said.
Pennsylvania is one of only eight states to use all of their Master Settlement Agreement tobacco funds for health-related programs.
Other details of the plan follow.
Thirty percent ($103 million in 2001-02) of the proceeds fund a new health-insurance program for low-income adults that will provide basic coverage while they are in jobs where they cannot access coverage, or between jobs. This program is for uninsured Pennsylvanians who are ineligible for Medicaid and have incomes of less than 200 percent of poverty ($17,180 for a single adult). The Ridge Administration expects to provide health-care coverage to nearly 60,000 low-income uninsured Pennsylvanians.
In addition, this initiative will provide Medicaid benefits for almost 10,000 working Pennsylvanians with disabilities, whose incomes are at 250 percent of poverty.
Nineteen percent of the money -- more than $65 million in the first year -- goes to innovative university and medical institute research designed to promote more rapid gains through collaboration with university-based research. This also will help Pennsylvania's world-class medical research centers to develop new medical treatments.
Thirteen percent (nearly $45 million in 2001-02) provides home- and community-based care for older Pennsylvanians. This investment will allow Pennsylvania to almost double the number of older Pennsylvanians who are able to get the services and supports they need to remain in their homes and communities, rather than in institutions.
Twelve percent, or more than $41 million this fiscal year, to prevention and cessation activities designed to decrease smoking by teens and adults. This is a dramatic increase from the $2.2 million now spent in Pennsylvania, and places the Commonwealth among the top four states nationally in funding for tobacco prevention and cessation. Seventy percent of funds ($29 million) will be driven at the local level to address local tobacco-control needs. The remaining 30 percent ($12 million) of the funds will be directed by the Department of Health to statewide projects.
Ten percent (nearly $35 million in 2001-02) to reimburse hospitals for the costs of providing care to uninsured individuals. Virtually every Pennsylvania hospital will receive either an uncompensated-care payment or reimbursement for extraordinary expenses incurred while providing care for the uninsured.
Eight percent (roughly $28 million) to expand income eligibility by $1,000 for the Governor's PACENET program, which assists seniors (65 or older making up to $17,000 for individuals and $20,200 per couple) with the purchase of prescription drugs. Gov. Ridge sought and won PACENET in 1996 to provide catastrophic prescription-drug coverage to older Pennsylvanians.
In addition to increasing income eligibility in PACENET, the monies will be used to continue the enrollment of approximately 25,000 PACE members whose Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment would have made them ineligible for continuation of benefits in 2001-02.
Eight percent (nearly $28 million) of the money will be transferred to an endowment, along with an up-front one-time deposit of $168 million, to ensure that the benefits of the tobacco settlement are secure, even if the Commonwealth's receipts from the tobacco companies decrease further in the future.
The new law also includes one-time payments of:
$8 million for low-cost loans for Pennsylvania medical students and
loan forgiveness for Pennsylvania registered nurses;
$15 million, in addition to the 10 percent noted above, to reimburse
hospitals for the costs of providing care to uninsured individuals;
$20 million for rural hospitals, for the purchase of equipment and
technology, which enhances patient care and quality; and
$25 million to community health centers, designed to improve access to
and coordination of care to low-income Pennsylvanians.
Also, nearly $69 million is transferred from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the General Fund for one-time health-related programs:
Implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act (HIPPA), $3 million;
Purchase of automatic external defibrillators, $2.5 million;
Bio-information projects, $5 million;
Health research and services, $20.7 million;
Psychiatric services in Eastern Pennsylvania, $3.5 million;
Re-engineering of the Department of Public Welfare's Medicaid
claims-processing system with state-of-the-art technology, $1.8 million;
Redesign of the vital-statistics processing system, $3.2 million; and
Community access to hospitals, $28.7 million.
House Bill 2 was approved unanimously by the Senate, and 187 to 4 in the House.
Gov. Ridge offered his thanks to the Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly who voted for the tobacco-settlement legislation, and particularly: Speaker of the House Matthew Ryan (R-Delaware); Senate Majority Leader ``Chip'' Brightbill (R-Lebanon); House Majority Leader John Perzel (R-Philadelphia); Sen. Timothy Murphy (R-Allegheny); Sen. Hal Mowery (R-Cumberland); Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre); Sen. Donald White (R-Indiana); and Sen. Joseph Scarnati (R-Warren).