YOUNGSTOWN Meeting outlines drug plan

Similar prescription drug programs have been enacted in Maine and Hawaii.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Myrna Loy Smith says she could use some relief from the cost of prescription drugs.
Smith, 63, who lives in the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority's Gutknecht Tower, 110 E. Wood St., said a $745 monthly Social Security check is her sole source of income.
A retired surgical technologist, she has no prescription drug coverage and spends about $200 a month out-of-pocket for prescription drugs, including blood pressure, pain, anti-inflammatory and anti-osteoporosis medications.
"It's kind of hard because every time you go to a different store, the medicine is a different price," she said. Despite the large proportion of her modest income that goes toward prescription drugs, she observed, "I can still eat."
Smith was one of several dozen people attending a campaign meeting at First Presbyterian Church of the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs, one of a series of similar meetings Tuesday around the state.
The coalition advocates a plan under which the state would negotiate with drug companies for high-volume discounts and pass the savings on to some 2.2 million Ohioans lacking drug coverage. Participants would carry cards entitling them to be in the program, which would provide 40 percent to 60 percent discounts and impose no additional costs on the taxpayers. Similar plans have been enacted in Maine and Hawaii.
Identical bills, House Bill 290 and Senate Bill 127, sponsored by state Rep. Dale Miller, D-19th, of Cleveland, and state Sen. Robert Hagan, D-33rd, of Youngstown, were introduced more than a year ago, and no hearings have been held on them, said Larry Fauver, president of the AFL-CIO of Youngstown.
On the ballot
The coalition has also drawn up a petition to take the proposal directly to the statewide ballot next year, but the petition language still has not been certified by the office of Attorney General Betty Montgomery, Fauver said. Once the language is certified, petitions can be circulated to get the matter on the ballot, he said, urging those in attendance to call Montgomery's office and ask why the petition language hasn't been certified.
"We are tired of letting this stuff just sit. Bills have been introduced. Nothing's done with them, and people are still suffering, not able to buy prescriptions. That's a shame today in this country that we have people having to decide whether I want to get my prescription filled today or if I'm going to buy food to put on my table," Fauver said.
"People are going to Canada and saving 30 [percent] to 40 percent on prescriptions. Why can't that be done in the United States?" he asked.
"Let's talk about this Valley alone. How many people have lost their jobs? Plants are closing, and these people are being put out on the street. Where are they going to get prescriptions?" he asked.

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