States' Plans for Tobacco Funds
WASHINGTON (AP) - Most states plan to spend their share of the $206 billion in tobacco settlement money on health care initiatives, from expanding insurance programs for low-income families to subsidizing prescription drug costs.
Rep. Roger Thomas, D-Smiths Grove, addresses the House about his bill relating to how money from the tobacco settlement would be divided, during debate Wednesday, March 8, 2000, at the Capitol in Frankfort, Ky.A survey by the National Conference on State Legislatures shows that 41 states have 140 bills pending that earmark hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco settlement money for health care programs.
Under a massive deal forged in 1998, big tobacco companies must shell out $206 billion to 46 states over 25 years. Four remaining states settled separately for an additional $40 billion.
The money was to compensate states for the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses of people on Medicaid. Many states plan to use part of the money for smoking prevention programs.
But there are no rules about how the money should be spent, and many state legislatures propose to put the funds towards general improvements in health care, including expanding insurance to people without coverage, an issue of great concern to many state health officials.
The settlement ``has created many opportunities for states that they otherwise would not have had,'' said William Pound, executive director of the conference.
The survey looked at how much money states would have available from settlement payments made through April 15.
The survey showed that California, which is getting $991.8 million, has proposed to expand health programs for poor families, improve hospitals and trauma centers in low-income areas and conduct biomedical research.
Colorado, which gets $126.5 million, has already passed legislation to use the funds to subsidize prescription drug costs and pay for primary care to at-risk newborns.
Minnesota wants to use $159 million of its $462 million for medical student stipends. New Jersey proposed to use $10 million of its $300 million for mental health services in prisons.
Forty-four states have pending bills to spend tobacco money on smoking prevention programs. States have also targeted money at non-tobacco related programs such as college tuition, K-12 education and child development.