Hearing Set in Lawsuit Over Tobacco Funds

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Medicaid challenges annual payments of $20 million to partnership

 Attorneys for the governor’s office of Medicaid and The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi will meet with a judge next month to set out a schedule for written arguments in a lawsuit that seeks to stop $20 million annual payments to the anti-tobacco group.

 
Jackson County Chancellor Jaye Bradley has scheduled the meeting for May 24 in Pascagoula, court officials said Wednesday.
 
In addition, state Treasurer Tate Reeves said the Mississippi Health Care Trust Fund Board has filed a separate motion to vacate a 2000 court order that directs the money to the partnership.
No hearing date has been set on that motion.
 
Medicaid filed suit in February, arguing the money should be going to the financially struggling health care program instead of the private partnership headed by former Attorney General Mike Moore.
 
Reeves, chairman of the trust fund board, contends the money should go directly to the trust fund, created after Moore won a massive legal settlement for the state against the tobacco industry.
 
“All installment payments are required by statute to be deposited into the trust fund and may be expended only as appropriated by the Legislature,” Reeves said Wednesday.
 
In December 2000, Moore went to Jackson County Chancery Court and received an order taking $20 million a year from Mississippi’s tobacco settlement payments and directing it to the Partnership.
 
“We’re actually saying that the order that was handed down by the court is in violation of the Health Care Trust Fund statutes,” Reeves said.
 
Moore didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
 
Moore has repeatedly described the programs as an integral part of the multibillion dollar settlement with the cigarette industry.
 
Moore has said the legal challenge will fail.
 
Gov. Haley Barbour, who also wants the money used for Medicaid, often cites a 2003 report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review. PEER said courts don’t have the authority to order how public money is spent.
 
Hearing set in lawsuit over tobacco funds
 
Originally written By: Shelia Byrd
The Associated Press
 

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