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Bernie Sanders' Next Mission: Getting California Voters to Take a Chance on Prescription Drug Prices

by Countable | 10.31.16

This post is a collaboration between Countable and our partners at CALmatters.
Rising prescription drug prices have plagued consumers for years and state agencies have been feeling those effects as well. That led the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to advance Proposition 61, which has gained the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the opposition of the Chamber of Commerce. Californians will get a chance to vote on capping the amount that the state pays for pharmaceuticals this November in the hope of bringing costs under control.

What the Initiative Does

This initiative would prohibit state agencies from buying any prescription drug from the manufacturer for a price that exceeds the lowest price paid by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The price rule would apply to any program in which a state agency ultimately pays for the prescription drug, even if it doesn’t actually buy the drug (meaning it compensates the consumer).

Purchases of prescription drugs under managed care programs that get funding through Medi-Cal (the state’s Medicaid program) would be exempted.

This initiative will appear on California ballots on November 8 as "Proposition 61."

In Favor

Proposition 61 will protect taxpayers and those who rely on prescription drugs through state programs by getting the state of California a better deal on what it pays pharmaceutical companies.

"Prescription drug prices in the United States are the highest in the world — by far. Californians on Nov. 8 have a chance to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry’s greed and spark a national movement to end this price-gouging." — Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Opposed

No one really knows what effect Proposition 61 will have on the prices the state of California pays for prescription drugs, and it could have negative consequences if pharmaceutical companies raise prices.

"The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office cannot determine whether Proposition 61 will save the state any money. In fact, state health care spending could go up. Not only could the state pay more for prescription drugs, but patients would have to go through a cumbersome approval process before getting their medicine, putting bureaucrats between patients and their doctors." — Don Harper, California American Legion.

In Depth

The state of California spent almost $3.8 billion on prescription drugs in 2014-15, with $1.8 billion going to help low-income Californians through Medi-Cal and another $1.3 billion going to the Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). The next two largest public spenders were the University of California system and the state’s Dept. of Corrections, which spent $334 million and $211 million, respectively, on prescription drugs during that period.

That purchasing power gives supporters hope that California’s clout could lead the state to getting a comparable deal to what the federal VA receives. But detractors worry that no one knows for sure what this proposition, if enacted, would do to prices. The state may not get the same deal the VA gets or pharmaceutical prices could raise prices across the board.

CALmatters reported that it would also be difficult for the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office to determine if the state was really saving money, as negotiations over prescription drug prices are sealed by law or through private contracts.

Read more at CALmatters.

Countable

Written by Countable

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(7)
  • Gary
    11/01/2016
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    This needs to be done at the federal level, or it will become more difficult if not impossible for state agencies to acquire needed medicine. Remember, pharmaceutical companies are not compelled to sell drugs to anyone, and if state agencies refuse to pay their prices, they will simply refuse to sell to them. We're the federal government to enact similar regulation, pharmaceutical companies would have the option of accepting the prices offered or exclude themselves from the US market, which they are unlikely to do. The only reason they charge what they do is because they can. In every other country, drug prices are controlled as a means of assuring that everyone has access. We should tell our elected representatives to climb out of Big Pharma's pants and do the same.

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  • Freddy
    11/01/2016
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    Vote yes. The free market does not work with big pharma that is why we are in this mess in the first place. We need to get that industry under regulations that prevent price gouging and market sharks like many of the pharmaceutical industry's CEOS. This is a step in the right direction to force the pharmaceutical to comply with fair trade laws like many of the countries with broader and more affordable healthcare than the US.

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  • Roland
    11/01/2016
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    Vote NO, keep the government out of this issue, let the free market work. Everytime the government gets involved they screw it up and make it worse. Just look at Obumbo care when they took over health care costs doubled and the amount of care was reduced. Don't take my word for it, just listen to the liberals most beloved commy, Bill Clinton. Now you brain dead liberals want the government set price controls on prescription drugs, when that happens drug prices will double.

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  • Evan
    11/01/2016
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    I feel this is a poor idea, tying California budgeting and spending to an outside factor with no control over it rising. But, it could also lower costs if it works as intended. Will probably not vote for this bill.

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  • Yevhen
    11/04/2016
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    Feel the bern, now. Feel the bern. These type of ideas would be flying around should Bernie get there.

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  • T
    11/14/2016
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    Evil pharmaceutical companies duped veterans into whining on their behalf. Why is it legal to blatantly lie in political ads? Why?

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  • Jubilee59
    10/12/2017
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    Vote yes please!

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