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Medicines shouldn't be either-or proposition



Published: Sat, January 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



In the four months that legislation sponsored by state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, D-Youngstown, and state Rep. Dale Miller, D-Cleveland, has languished in the General Assembly, the price of prescription medicines has continued to soar. And with these increases have come a growing number of Ohioans who are being forced to choose between their health and their other needs for daily living, such as food, or have joined the ranks of the & quot;skippers. & quot;

Skippers are individuals who skip doses of prescription medicine to make supplies last longer. But not taking medicine in the manner prescribed by the doctor diminishes the effectiveness of the drug.

So why won't the Ohio General Assembly put the Hagan-Miller initiative on a fast track? The answer can be found in two words, "partisan politics."

By refusing to let the Democratic bills out of House and Senate committees, the Republican leadership is forcing Ohioans who are uninsured or underinsured to gamble with their health.

Market forces: It doesn't seem to matter to the fiscally conservative Republican Party that the Ohio Prescription Drug Fair Pricing Act would not cost the state treasury a cent. Even more surprising, legislative leaders are willing to ignore one of the main attractions of the program: market forces determining the best deals.

The Hagan-Miller bills would enable any Ohioan who does not have health insurance or is underinsured to receive a prescription drug card similar to the Golden Buckeye Card. Use of the drug card would result in savings of 50 to 60 percent.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services would have the authority to negotiate rebates from drug companies and pass the discounts to retailers. That's where the market forces come into play.

The administrative costs would be paid from the negotiated rebates.

If this initiative seems like a legislative no-brainer, it is. Indeed, the House and Senate bills have the backing of the Ohio AFL-CIO, Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio, American Association of Retired Persons Ohio Chapter, the Ohio Nurses Association and the Ohio Public Interest Research Group.

Resistance: But the Republican leadership in the General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bob Taft have refused to embrace it.

Instead, they favor extending prescription drug benefits to senior citizens through the Golden Buckeye Card program.

The obvious problem with this approach is that it would only benefit Ohioans in a certain age group. And, Hagan argues, the Republican program would result in a 10 percent discount in the price of drugs, compared to the 50 to 60 percent savings projected in the Hagan-Miller program.




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