Up In Smoke

Remember the lawsuit brought against several tobacco companies by many states about ten years back?

Remember how that money was supposed to go to programs for preventing tobacco use?

Remember how that money was supposed to reimburse the states for expenses the states had incurred under their Medicaid programs for tobacco-related health care costs?

Oregon’s share is $2,248,476,833.11. This year’s yield from the trust is $80,381,983.32.

So, how much does Oregon spend a year on tobacco prevention? $3.45 million this year.

Where does the other $77 million – and the other $326 million in annual state tobacco revenues (that’s $403,000,000.00 for the math impaired) go?

Why, straight into the general fund, where slightly more than half of it goes to the Oregon Health Plan and the rest is frittered away on legislator’s pet projects having nothing to do with public health, let alone tobacco related illnesses.

Clearly, if the legislature wanted to add funding to the “Healthy Kids” program, there’s already plenty of tobacco money to do it with, but that’s not the purpose of M50. The purpose of M50 is to place a tax in the constitution where a 2/3 vote of the legislature would be required to overturn it. If the only point was to provide funding, a constitutional amendment would not be required. If M50 is successful, look for more attempts to add taxes to the constitution by referral – and look for them to be railroaded a la M49.

Remember that M50 is targeted not just at providing taxpayer provided healthcare for children, but also to “low income adults and medically underserved Oregonians.” M50 does not define “low income” or “medically underserved.” With “Healthy Kids” offering coverage to families earning up to almost $80,000.00 a year it seems the state has a different definition of “low income” than the rest of us. “Medically underserved” can mean anything the legislature decides it means, but I suspect its code for illegal aliens. With over a third of current Oregon Health Plan beneficiaries not speaking English as a native language, I wouldn’t exactly call them underserved.

How about we spend tobacco settlement and tax revenues where they’re supposed to be spent, quit subsidizing irresponsible parents who can afford to, but choose not to purchase healthcare for their kids, and stop giving free health care to illegal aliens? If we did there would be plenty of money to provide basic preventative healthcare like immunizations and annual checkups to all legal residents and subsidized private insurance to those Oregonians who really can’t afford it.

References:

Attorneys General Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement

Funds, By State, From Settlement Agreement Reached In November, 1998 By 46 State Attorneys General And The Tobacco Industry

Oregon Health Plan

“Healthy Kids”

Measure 4 (November 7, 2000)

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