Drug Prices: Ohio ballot measure does not add up

Issue 2, the so-called “Ohio Drug Price Relief Act” on the November ballot in Ohio makes a good first impression, but does not stand up to any real scrutiny.

According to its proponents, it would save taxpayers a lot of money by requiring state agencies and those receiving funds from the state spend no more for prescription drugs than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays.

That would affect millions of Ohioans, ranging from those on Medicaid to, possibly, state government retirees.

In reality it would save very little money. Federal law requires the VA to be given a 24 percent discount on prescription drugs. The state Medicaid program, which pays for about three-fourths of the drugs paid for with state funds, already receives a 23.1 percent discount. Buckeye State officials already use bulk buying power to bargain for discounts for many other government programs.

Assume for a moment that pharmaceutical companies do grant additional discounts to government buyers. Surely no one believes those companies will not increase prices charged to private consumers to make up their losses on state contracts.

Issue 2 could mean millions of Ohioans would pay more for drugs.

Meanwhile, proponents claim government retirees would be covered. But officials of the state’s five retirement programs say they would not. That could set up a costly court battle to settle the question — and that is among the more devious aspects of Issue 2. The fine print requires taxpayers to cover the costs of any legal action involving the program.

Only a handful of organizations have endorsed the plan.

Scores of others oppose it. They include nearly all the state’s organizations for health care professionals as well as groups ranging in diversity from the American Legion and the Columbus branch of the NAACP, to the Interdenominational Ministry Alliance of the Columbus area and ACT Ohio (Affiliated Construction Trades).

Clearly, Issue 2 is bad medicine for Ohioans, who ought to say no to it Nov. 7.

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