Law Opinion OPINION: Issue 2 is the wrong answer to Ohio’s health care dilemma By Tim Zelina Posted on October 18, 2017 9 min read 0 0 1,022 Will the Issue 2, aka the Drug Price Relief Act, lower drug prices in Ohio? Opinion writer Tim Zelina says Issue 2 makes no sense. As healthcare costs across the country continue to rise dramatically in states like Ohio, governments across the nation are scrambling to control the damage. Some locals have taken inspiration from our Western pals with Issue 2, a proposal to require the State to purchase pharmaceuticals for no more than the price set by that paid by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, a federal agency that buys drugs for around 25 percent cheaper a price than the public pays. The VA is able to do this as it is legally required by law to; drug companies would rather sell surplus drugs at a profit than throw them out, they suck in their pride and accept the lower price. READ: What is Issue 2? Issue 2 wants to expand this cost-cutting measure to the state of Ohio. By requiring Ohio healthcare programs like Medicaid to set the prices they purchase drugs at the same rate as the VA, Issue 2’s proponents hope to lower drug prices and save taxpayers millions. Critics of Issue 2 claim it’s a shortsighted solution that will result in those with private insurance paying more for their drugs, and may even cause the VA to lose its negotiating power. Issue 2 has the support of prominent progressive politicians like former Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich, and organized labor like the National Nurses United. It is opposed by the vast majority of healthcare and veterans groups, a stinging blow that deeply damages the credibility of the cause. Issue 2 is something progressives want to support; it is a fight against Big Pharma, a unionizing of the state against oppressive health care prices. Many of us see our parent’s and grandparent’s, and perhaps our own, bank accounts emptied by the ridiculous, unstoppable surge of drug prices. Health care costs are a major public issue, and it demands an immediate fix. Yet, despite its hollow populist appeal, Issue 2 seems a shortsighted, irresponsible attempt to soothe healthcare problems. It’s very difficult to properly gauge Issue 2, as Issue 2’s detractors are very hard to trust. Though many are medical professionals with much credibility, they are under a banner bankrolled by ‘Big Pharma’. Over $16 million has been raised to fight Issue 2, and $161 million was raised to fight an identical proposition in California, a pretty penny that shows the drug companies believe this will hurt their margins. Many point to this massive spending spree as proof that Issue 2 is simply being misrepresented and unfairly slandered by greedy profit seekers. However, just because it hurts the drug companies does not mean it will be good for the working class American. Very rarely do the interests of multinational corporations and the common man overlap, but Issue 2 appears to be one of those times. The main issue with this bill is its sole focus on the public healthcare recipients. By restricting the price drop to only public healthcare plans, the bill’s sponsors hope it will cause a ripple effect throughout the market that will drive down prices everywhere. This makes absolutely no sense, as public health care plans are restricted to solely those eligible to receive them. Insurers are not competing with the government with their health care plans; the vast majority of those with private insurance will be unable to switch to the government plan, giving a ripe market for the insurers and drug companies to make up for the loss of profit from the Medicaid program. Issue 2’s main sponsor is a philanthropist named Michael Weinstein who tried and failed to get the issue passed in California, and now moved on to try again in Ohio. Nearly identical to its California counterpart, Issue 2 seems more like Weinstein’s personal pet project than an honest attempt by experts to correct institutional flaws. The issue lacks strong expert backing; the only health care group that seems to endorse them is a left wing nurses union. Though one must not blindly trust institutions, the complete lack of support from practically any health care professional is a very telling sign. There is even doubt Issue 2 will lower drug prices for the state. Medicare already receives a negotiated price reduction as required by federal law. What it is compared to the Veterans Affairs is confidential, but Issue 2 ignores that fact in favor of jumping blindly into the abyss. This means that if Medicare was able to negotiate lower prices than the VA, Issue 2 would cause them to pay more. Issue 2 is a noble effort by a man who cares deeply for the health of everyday citizens. However, the proposal simply is not a good idea. It covers too narrow of a market, fails to address the root causes of our drug prices, and will almost surely lead to higher prices for private insurers. Ohio needs detailed, comprehensive health care reform, not some haphazard swipe at a talking point. Drug prices are a real problem, but Issue 2 is not the answer.