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    New York Cigarette Tax Hike Approved

    Smokers will have to cough up another 39 cents a pack to help fund health-care pay raises.


    ALBANY, N.Y. -- Cigarette prices will rise an additional 39 cents a pack under a new $3 billion statewide health plan that will increase the salaries of hospital workers and nursing home employees.

    The agreement, finalized yesterday, could boost the pay for nurses, nursing assistants, dietary workers, housekeepers and lab technicians statewide, according to The Staten Island Advance.

    The state's three-year plan will pump $2.1 billion into the health-care industry to help hospitals, nursing homes, free clinics and personal care providers recruit, train and retain workers to address what top lawmakers called a "critical shortage" in staffing.

    The legislation gives $8 million in Medicaid health coverage to low-income women undergoing treatment for breast and cervical cancer who were diagnosed in a government-funded early detection program. It also allows the employed disabled to buy-in to Medicaid. It will fund medical malpractice insurance beyond what is now in doctors' primary coverage and improve existing state-funded health insurance programs for children, families and the elderly, officials said.

    The legislation, backed by top Republicans and Democrats, passed both houses of the state Legislature and was endorsed by Republican Gov. George E. Pataki.

    The levy on smokes drew mixed reactions on Staten Island, where the cost of name-brand butts could top $5 a pack. The hike comes after a 1999 state health reform law bumped the state's cigarette tax from 56 cents a pack to $1.11. The new $1.50 rate will be the nation's highest.

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