OSMA Helps Defeat Risky Issue 2 at the Polls!

Ohio Issue 2 was struck down by voters at the polls on Election Day last week. For months, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) had joined in the persistent warnings of more than 30 organizations representing healthcare professionals, veterans,’ groups, and business interests as part of a coalition against the ballot initiative Issue 2. 

The OSMA joined the Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx ballot Issue coalition and urged its members and Ohioans to vote “no” on Issue 2 during the 2017 election. 

The defeat of Issue 2 on November 7 was by a margin of about 79.3% NO to 20.7% YES, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Last November in the 2016 election, California voters rejected Prop 61, which was a virtually identical proposal brought forth by the same sponsor.

While the OSMA agrees that lowering prescription drug prices is crucial, the vague language describing Issue 2 almost assured this proposal was not likely to achieve that stated goal, despite what its supporters claimed. Many raised serious concerns that if passed, it could have negative consequences for Ohioans and some of the state’s most vulnerable patients. 

Issue 2 would have required that the state pay no more for drugs than the price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA). Experts objectively studied and analyzed the proposal and the majority believed that passing Issue 2 would have been misguided, and would in fact only make the problem of high prescription drug costs worse by raising prescription prices for most Ohioans. Many also reported it could result in a disastrous reduction in access to needed medications for some patients.  

Throughout the campaign, there were many questions about what amount of money, if any, Ohio would save should the proposal pass. Medicaid and the VA negotiate for lower medicine on some medications, but both federal and state laws consider the details of the two final prices under the discounts confidential information, to protect contract negotiations. Thus, the prices that the VA pays for prescription drugs are not made public, and even in the event of Issue 2 passing, it was unclear if the VA would make that information known, making true cost comparison impossible. 

Another worry was that Issue 2 might eradicate existing discounts for which Ohio already negotiates directly with drug manufacturers. If Issue 2 did not work like it claimed it would, and these additional discounts and rebates were also eliminated, drug prices could be significantly higher.  

Even if it had passed and worked as it promised, defying the analysis and predictions of experts, 7 million Ohioans would see no benefit from Issue 2, as these individuals receive their medications through private or employer-provided insurers rather than state programs. This is nearly two-thirds of the state’s population. However, the concern went beyond the mere lack of help proposed by the bill for this portion of Ohioans. Critics and opponents of the measure worried that if Issue 2 passed, cost-shifting would cause the 7 million people left behind to fall victim to significant price hikes. 

Additionally, the language of the ballot initiative contained provisions that would have given the sponsors of Issue 2 unprecedented right upon it becoming law to intervene in any legal challenges filed against it. In that event, Ohio taxpayers would have been responsible for paying the sponsors’ attorney fees, with no cap or limit, and regardless of win or lose in court.

Ultimately, Ohio voters agreed with the OSMA and the rest of the coalition, and decided that Issue 2 was not the right solution for lowering drug prices in Ohio. This ballot initiative may have ended with a resounding “NO” vote, but the issue of prescription drug prices is not likely to go away, as the problem continues to burden millions of Ohio patients.

The OSMA will be ready to coordinate and provide input as other opportunities and cooperative efforts may arise in the search for a more viable, efficient, and inclusive solution.