Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Big Money Battle Over Ohio's Drug Price Relief Act
A citizen-initiated bill will appear on Ohio's November election ballot. Known as the Drug Price Relief Act, it would prohibit the state from paying more for any prescription drug than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the VA's Veterans Health Administration. (By law, the VA may negotiate drug prices, while Medicare and Medicaid may not.) This new price cap should produce cost savings to Ohio of at least 24%, and potentially much higher. The discounted prices would apply to approximately 4.2 million Ohioans, most on Medicaid, the rest being state workers and public university employees. Seems fairly straightforward.
Opponents of the bill include the drug industry lobby known as PhRMA, and the Chamber of Commerce. Last year in California, they defeated a similar bill by outspending the proponents five to one. Drug companies will always charge the highest price they can get away with, and Ohio's Drug Price Relief Act would trim their sails a little bit, which they don't like at all.
As in California, the pro-side, Ohio Taxpayers For Lower Drug Prices, is already being vastly outspent by the anti-side, Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue. The opponents may have much more advertising money, but their argument is light on facts and evidence, and heavy on scare tactics.
These critics threaten that if the bill passes, drug makers will cover their reduced profits with price hikes to those not covered by state insurance. They offer no proof that this will occur. Interestingly, they never suggest that drug makers are not making a profit at VA prices. And they never claim the bill would not save money for Ohio and 4 million of its residents. Instead, valuing their bottom line and nothing else, they fall back on massive ad buys packed with FUD -- fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
They rely on words and phrases such as "unworkable," "dangerous," "may actually increase costs," and their favorite, "deceptive." But they never explain why the bill is unworkable, dangerous, costly and deceptive. It just is. Be afraid. Such tactics are common and, well, deceptive.
With everyone from liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown to conservative Ohio AG Mike DeWine to deranged dipshit Donald Trump trying to do something about rising drug prices, not to mention my own self-interest, I'm inclined to vote for the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act. I don't see a real downside, and I'm turned off by the slippery mendacity of the bill's opponents.
But it's a long road to November, and I'm no expert. If I'm looking at it the wrong way, give it a shot -- persuade me.