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OHIO Bills backed by local legislators will offer prescription drug aid



Published: Tue, September 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The plan would save uninsured or underinsured Ohioans 50 percent to 60 percent.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Dolores Jackson hopes the Ohio Prescription Drug Fair Pricing Act will give her some relief.

Jackson, 72, of East Liverpool, a retiree of a local pottery company, says she spends more than one-third of her income on prescription medicines. She pays all her prescription drug costs -- more than $200 a month -- out of her pocket.

"It's overwhelming," she said, adding that she knows people who pay $500 to $600 a month for prescription drugs. "If you can buy it cheaper in Canada and Mexico, what's holding up our price here in the states?," she asked.

"I'm what you call a skipper," she said, referring to her practice of skipping some doses of medicines prescribed for her to make supplies last longer. Jackson said she suffers from diabetes and has undergone heart surgery.

"There was a time that I took Coumadin [a prescription blood thinning medication], and I couldn't afford that, and so I took an aspirin a day," she recalled.

Public forum: Jackson was one of several dozen people at a Monday evening forum on the proposed legislation sponsored by the Ohio AFL-CIO at First Presbyterian Church.

The act, patterned after a similar plan in effect in Maine, is being proposed in two identical bills, Senate Bill 127, sponsored by State Sen. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, and House Bill 290, sponsored by State Rep. Dale Miller of Cleveland, D-19th.

The bills, both in committee, would provide all Ohioans who don't have prescription drug coverage or are substantially underinsured a prescription drug card designed to save them 50 percent to 60 percent.

The card would be similar to the Golden Buckeye Card.

The bill would give the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services authority to negotiate rebates from drug companies and pass the discounts to retailers.

"Bankruptcies are up. People are now without health insurance. They're without pharmaceutical coverage. Drug prices are going up 11 and 12 percent -- 21/2 times the rate of inflation. We certainly need it now more than ever," Hagan said.

No taxpayer cost: There would be no cost to the taxpayers because administrative costs would be paid from the negotiated rebates, according to the AFL-CIO.

"There's no limit on age. There's no limit on income. Anyone can apply, and it's for the underinsured and the uninsured in Ohio," said Patti Tatoki, state AFL-CIO staff representative.

"It's an outrageous amount of money -- the cost of health benefits now," said state Rep. Ken Carano of Austintown, D-65th, a co-sponsor of the House bill.




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