Opponent and Proponent Arguments

‘No’ vote on Issue 2 recommended

Ohio residents will vote November 2017 on the Drug Price Relief Act, a ballot issue that would mandate the maximum price the state can pay for prescription drugs. Ohio Farm Bureau’s board of trustees recommend members vote “no” on Issue 2 in November.

“Drug costs are expensive and Ohio Farm Bureau supports reform and specifically cost containment for Medicaid, but this ballot measure is poorly worded and nearly impossible to implement,” said Tony Seegers, OFBF’s director of state policy.

What is the Drug Price Relief Act (DPRA)?
Issue 2, a citizen-initiated statute, would force the state and its agencies to purchase prescription drugs at the same or a lesser price than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Proponents say the VA pays on average 20-24 percent less for drugs due to its bargaining power.
The initiative also would direct the Ohio attorney general to defend any lawsuit challenging the act, allow the four named co-sponsors of the ballot initiative to intervene in any legal challenges of the new law and force Ohio taxpayers to pay the co-sponsors’ attorney fees and court costs. A nearly identical proposal was defeated last year in California. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been the driving force behind both the California and Ohio ballot measures.

Opponent arguments
Opponents say DPRA would be difficult to implement because the VA’s pricing contracts for purchasing prescription drugs are not public. They say the DPRA would likely invalidate any existing drug discounts the state has with drug manufacturers and that Ohio’s Medicaid program already receives discounts/rebates from manufacturers that appear to be nearly equivalent to the VA’s, based on available information. The red tape and government bureaucracy caused by confusion over how to implement this will be a drain of taxpayer dollars.

Opponents also said the proposal would do nothing to lower drug costs for the 7 million Ohioans who are privately insured, have employer coverage, are on Medicare or otherwise do not obtain medication through state programs. Plus, the proposal could potentially increase the state’s prescription drug costs annually by tens of millions of dollars.

Veteran groups have said the DPRA could cause the cost of prescription drugs for veterans to increase since manufacturers would likely stop negotiating more generous discounts with the VA beyond the price required under federal law.
Another concern is the unprecedented provision of giving the ballot sponsors a blank check to intervene — at taxpayer expense — in any legal challenges that may be filed. The attorney fees and court costs could be very costly to the state.

Proponent arguments
Proponents say DPRA would save the state between $400 million to $750 million a year and the money saved could be directed to other healthcare programs or other areas. They say the act could force drug companies to moderate the prices they charge privately insured consumers once the public sees the savings.

Election Day is Nov. 7.

Amy Graves 

Amy Graves is a freelance writer from Franklin County.