AARP Endorses Proposition 79, Says ‘Priority’ is to Stop Proposition 78
AARP on Wednesday recommended that its 3.1 million California members vote in favor of Proposition 79 and against Proposition 78, after a six-member executive committee unanimously approved the position, the Los Angeles Times reports (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 9/29).
Proposition 78, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week endorsed, would establish a voluntary prescription drug discount plan for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. The measure is supported by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Proposition 79 would require drug makers to participate in a prescription drug discount program for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level or face exclusion from the Medi-Cal formulary in some cases. Under Proposition 79, people could sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices. Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups support the measure (California Healthline 9/26).
California AARP Director Tom Porter said, "We believe the greatest harm that could come from this would be for 78 to pass," adding, "That's our priority: to stop 78."
AARP is concerned that Proposition 78 could end prospects for farther-reaching drug discount programs, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 9/29).
Jan Faiks, PhRMA vice president for government affairs, said AARP previously supported a Senate bill that Proposition 78 was based upon. "Proposition 78 was good policy for AARP three months ago," Faiks said, adding, "What's happened behind the scenes in Sacramento for AARP to reverse its position?" (Elias, AP/Fresno Bee, 9/29).
Political experts said the AARP endorsement will make an impact in the Nov. 8 election, particularly among older residents who are more likely to vote and are more concerned about prescription drug prices.
The Senior Advocates League has endorsed Proposition 78.
The California Medical Association has not taken a position on either measure. The California Nurses Association and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights oppose Proposition 78 but have not stated a position on Proposition 79 (Los Angeles Times, 9/29).
"The $75 million-plus that Big Pharma is spending to pass [Proposition 78] and kill [Proposition 79] should be an indication of what's at stake for the industry," Peter Schrag, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee, writes. According to Schrag, "[i]t's a reasonable bet" that if Proposition 79 is approved, drug makers "will spend millions more to block it in the courts" (Schrag, Sacramento Bee, 9/28).
Additional information on Propositions 78 and 79 is available online.