Four reasons why AAPIs should oppose Prop 61


Proposition 61 is opposed by a diverse coalition of organizations representing community-based health service organizations, labor unions, patient advocates, doctors, clinics, veterans, and businesses because the flawed and deceptive measure would be bad for patients, harmful for veterans and expensive for taxpayers.

The negative impact of Prop. 61 on AAPIs would be broad and deep.

First, Prop. 61 threatens to drive up prescription drug costs for AAPI veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) receives special discounts on prescription drugs for veterans in honor of their service to our country. This helps keep medicines affordable to the nearly 75 percent of veterans who currently pay low out-of-pocket co-pays for prescriptions, and 25 percent of vets who pay no prescription co-pays.

According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, Prop. 61 would force drug manufacturers to “elect to raise VA drug prices.” In addition, representatives of the VA and the U.S. Government Accountability Office have warned that extending VA contract pricing to other large populations such as state government purchasers would result in increased health costs for veterans and their families by undermining the discounts provided to the VA. This would harshly affect the 94,000 AAPI Californians that are veterans.

Second, Prop. 61 would disrupt AAPI patient access to needed medicines. Prop. 61 would invalidate many existing drug discount agreements the state has negotiated with pharmaceutical manufacturers for its Medi-Cal fee-for-service program. Invalidating these contracts would take many medicines off the Medi-Cal preferred drug list.

Currently, over 9 percent of Medi-Cal fee-for-service enrollees are AAPI, which equates to hundreds of thousands of AAPIs that would be harmed by Prop. 61. Furthermore, the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) says the initiative could lead to “decreased access to certain drugs for CalPERS members.” As such, this would negatively impact over 100,000 AAPIs who are CalPERS members.

Third, Prop. 61 fails to even address access and affordability of medicines for the AAPIs who are the most needy, middle-class families, or small business owners in the state. More than 88 percent of Californians are excluded from the provisions in Prop 61, including more than 10 million low-income patients in Medi-Cal, 20 million Californians with private health insurance and Medicare, 1.3 million in Covered California and millions of others. Instead, Prop. 61 only arbitrarily covers a selection of Californians in certain state government programs. At the same time, The HMO operator that wrote Prop. 61 brought in more than $1 billion last year selling prescription drugs and suspiciously exempted his own HMO from having to comply with Prop. 61.

Fourth, Prop. 61 threatens the vibrancy and viability of medical research and development of innovative medicines that many AAPIs are involved in. Prop. 61 would set price limits on innovative drugs that would then would limit investments in the research and development of new drugs and life-saving cures. Prop. 61’s price limits would threaten the ability to attract investments needed to develop new life-saving medicines. By discouraging investment in the research and development of new medications, Prop. 61 would harm California’s burgeoning life sciences sector that generates nearly $130 billion in revenues and more than 1 million California jobs, including 281,000 directly employed in the industry.

For these four main reasons, I urge AAPI voters to join me and the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT), the Chinese American Council of Sacramento, the Asian American Business Women’s Association, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, and American Legion to oppose Prop. 61 on November 8, 2016.

Paul Fong is a former California state assemblymember and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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