Former Congressman and mayor of Cleveland Dennis Kucinich has thrown his support behind Issue 2 — The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act.
“If health care is going to be affordable, we have to make prescription drugs affordable. To me its a basic economic principle,” Kucinich said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News Wednesday.
Passing Issue 2 might not give any immediate relief to most Ohioans on their drug prices — those on private insurance and Medicare are not impacted by Issue 2 — but it’s an important first step in fighting against price gouging and other deceptive drug company practices, he said.
The ballot initiative would require the state, including the Ohio Department of Medicaid, pay the same or lower prices for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“What I’m about is trying to communicate very clearly to people, that if Ohioans vote to approve Issue 2, the state will be able to negotiate with drug companies and save $400 million a year. That’s it,” Kucinich said. “Why shouldn’t the state negotiate with the drug manufacturers just as the VA does, and it saves the government money there.”
While in Congress, Kucinich pushed for legislation that said the federal Medicare program should be able to negotiate with drug companies on the cost of prescription drugs.
“So this is an issue that we’ve been working on for years,” he said.
But almost all of the state agencies that would be impacted by Issue 2 already negotiate their drug costs.
Each managed care plan that administers Medicaid — there are five that represent about 80 percent of Medicaid patients in the state — already negotiate drug prices through pharmacy benefit managers; as does the Ohio Department of Administrative Services on behalf of state employees, the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, and the Rx Ohio Collaborative on behalf of 125 organizations including the various Ohio public pension systems.
“While I respect Congressman Kucinich, its been a long time since he was in the state legislature and I think his comments show that he’s a number of years behind the times in terms of what’s happening when our state government buys drugs,” said Dale Butland, spokesman for the opposition, Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue. “To say that the state doesn’t negotiate is just flatly untrue.”
Butland said both the VA and state programs like Medicaid already get mandatory discounts on drugs, and negotiate additional savings through rebates with drug companies. In many cases, the state is already getting just as good of a discount as the VA.
The opposition to Issue 2 says in some cases, prices could go up if Issue 2 passes, such as for veterans or retirees, because drug companies will simply offer fewer discounts to make up their costs.
“This is not going to lower prices or save money,” Butland said.
RELATED: Issue 2 forum in Dayton Oct. 12
Kucinich is rumored to by eyeing a run for governor in a crowded race that already has four Democrats vying for the party’s nomination. But he said that has nothing to do with his support of Issue 2.
“I’ve been working on this issue long before Issue 2 arose,” he said.
READ MORE ON ISSUE 2