Analysis: The pros and cons of Issue 2


One of the most high-profile items appearing on this year’s election ballot in Ohio is Issue 2, which would impact the cost of prescription medications.

Will it work? That’s the million dollar question, and that’s why both sides are spending millions of dollars on advertising to buy your vote. It should make you nervous enough to do some homework before you cast your ballot.

The Record-Herald’s sister publication, The Lima News, recently took a look at the issue.

Below are seven questions to consider:

What does Issue 2 actually require?

All state departments, agencies and entities will pay no more for prescription drugs than the price paid by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sound good? Here’s the hook: It also requires that the individual petitioners responsible for proposing the law are the ones who get to defend the law. The state will be required to pay attorney fees and other expenses, but the petitioners liability is limited to just $10,000 if the law is ruled to be unenforceable. The state would pay the rest.

Would only people getting prescriptions through the state get this discount?

Absolutely. Nearly two-thirds of Ohioans will watch from the sidelines when the discounts are handed out. This includes those with private insurance, employer-provided insurance and seniors who rely on Medicare. But is that necessarily a bad thing? The “vote yes” folks argue that any time you can save the taxpayer any money, it is a good thing.

Is it fair to help one group and not others?

No, but this is politics, not Sunday School. The motivation of the Issue 2 camp is to collect attorney fees while making the pharmaceutical companies pay for their past sins. If a few folks get helped in the process, then glory be.

Won’t the pharmaceutical companies just shift the costs?

Let’s just say a person becomes a top executive because he or she enjoys eating steak, not eating profits. Another way to look at it: If you mow lawns for a living and the price of gasoline doubles over the winter, are you going to keep the price the same the next summer or will you pass along the expense?

The vote yes group argues Congress can be trusted to make sure cost-shifting doesn’t occur. The pharmaceutical companies are already in Uncle Sam’s doghouse for price fixing, they claim, and one wrong step will see them suffering the wrath of some new congressman trying to make a name for himself or herself.

For those who do qualify for a discount, how much extra cash will end up in their pockets?

Before we answer, can we ask: Do you believe in crystal balls or fortune tellers? The truth is no one really knows. That’s why every time you blink a different figure is thrown out. Remember, approval means those eligible would pay no more for prescription drugs than is paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which receives a discount of at least 24 percent. The state already receives nearly the same discount on drugs — 23.1 percent — for programs such as Medicaid. Also keep in mind some drug prices paid by the VA are kept secret by contract.

Why hasn’t the Ohio Legislature handled this? Isn’t this better suited for the legislative branch?

Agreed. But keep in mind they’re awfully busy manipulating redistricting maps and making sure school finances remain a mess.

What’s the motivation of the leaders on both sides of this issue?

Michael Weinstein is the person behind the Issue 2 movement and his motives may be personal. A self-described “child of the 60s” and now president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Weinstein has lost friends because they couldn’t afford the high cost of medication. This may be a vendetta hidden behind the belief health-care costs are out of control, insurance co-pays continue to get harder for people to afford, and central to that is the price of prescription drugs.

The “vote no” camp is a little trickier.

It’s easy to understand why the pharmaceutical companies are against Issue 2: If they can no longer gouge Ohioans, other states may also try to slip the drug companies a sleeping pill. That’s bad for business.

On the other hand, you have a diverse group of health-care agencies, labor unions and chambers of commerce that are urging a “no vote.” They have a more practical reason. They fear the consequences that will result from Issue 2 are worse than the solution.

What voters need to decide is if Issue 2 will be a start to bringing health cost under control, or if it will create more problems hidden behind a solution.

The Record-Herald

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