TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: Spending Disputes Ignite Statewide Debates
Throughout California, local governments are battling with health professionals on how best to spend their portion of the expected $25 billion in tobacco settlement funds. Health advocacy groups, such as the Sacramento-based California Primary Care Association, have been trying to convince county officials to spend the monies on health care and tobacco prevention projects. "I think that due to the reasons for entering the lawsuit, to recoup Medi-Cal money that was used to treat illnesses due to tobacco, it's our position that money should be put back into health care to expand health care services. And we would really like to see money go to care for the uninsured," Sara Bailey, regional advocate for the group, said. So far, only Alameda and San Diego counties have pledged to use all of their settlement money to finance health-related programs. Other counties, like Solano and Orange, want to use funds to build a new police station or retire debt and expand prisons. Those officials maintain that the settlement was "meant to reimburse counties' general funds and should be used for any pressing need." Two previous statewide efforts to link the tobacco settlement with health initiatives failed after being vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis (D). A third attempt is being made in the state Legislature (Hearden, Scripps-McClatchy Western Service/Denver Rocky Mountain News, 3/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.