Majority of Californians Approve of Rx Drug Price Initiative

California Healthline, Thursday, November 12, 2015

The majority of Californians would support a ballot measure to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the state, according to a poll by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Sacramento Business Journal reports (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 11/11).

Background on Initiative

The California Drug Price Relief Act, which is supported by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, would impose price controls on prescription drug purchases funded — directly and indirectly — by the state.

The proposal would mandate that the state pay the same as or less than the rates paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drug purchases. California currently pays billions of dollars for prescription drugs — both directly, such as for prison health care, and indirectly, such as for Medi-Cal and CalPERS managed care plans. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program.

According to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance, the effects of the proposal are not entirely clear. However, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said it could benefit about five million Californians, including:

  • 2.7 million non-HMO Medi-Cal beneficiaries;
  • 2.2 million CalPERS and California State Teachers’ Retirement System members;
  • 112,000 inmates; and
  • 31,000 residents who receive AIDS drugs from government-assistance programs.

Earlier this month, backers of the initiative said they submitted nearly 550,000 signatures to place the proposal on the November 2016 ballot (California Healthline, 11/3).

Details of Poll

The poll was conducted from Oct. 26 to Nov. 5.

The survey found that 76% of Californians support the measure. That rate rose to 81% when respondents read arguments on both sides of the issue.

Reaction

In a release, campaign spokesperson Mike Roth said, “These are some of the highest levels of support you’ll find for an initiative in California,” adding, “People are fed up with the greed and price-gouging of the big pharmaceutical companies, and they expect their state government to do something about it.”

However, Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for opponents of the measure, said, “While this ballot measure may look simple, the changes being proposed will have adverse consequences for Californians,” adding, “If it goes forward, we will be preparing a campaign to educate voters in California about its negative consequences. We expect a broad coalition of groups, representing millions of Californians, to strongly oppose this ballot measure and help us defeat it if it qualifies for November 2016” (Sacramento Business Journal, 11/11).

Source: California Healthline, Thursday, November 12, 2015