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Communities of color unite behind Prop. 79, say no to drug companies’ big money campaign
Organizations and lawmakers representing communities of color urged California voters today to approve Proposition 79 – the enforceable prescription drug discount measure sponsored by consumer, senior and health groups. The advocates emphasized that drug companies cannot buy their communities’ votes and that low and moderate income people of color stand to benefit greatly from Prop. 79.
“The big drug companies are used to getting their way by throwing their money around and using their financial muscle to block reform,” said Assemblymember Mark Ridley Thomas.
“But the drug companies can’t buy our votes. We are united behind Prop. 79 because it will help low and moderate income families, who are hurt by soaring drug prices.”
People of color have a higher incidence of a number of chronic diseases than whites. For example, Latinos are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes as non-Latino whites. African Americans under 50 have a higher mortality rate from heart disease and strokes than whites. Tuberculosis rates among Asian Americans are the highest in the country – 16 times more than the rate among whites.
“People of color have a lot at stake in the debate over Prop. 79, since they suffer from many health problems at higher rates and make up a larger percentage of those who lack health insurance,” said Dr. Michael Rodriguez, chair of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “Too often, they end up doing without the medicine they need to stay healthy because they simply cannot afford it.”
California’s Medi-Cal program provides prescription drug coverage to over 6.8 million low income Californians and people with disabilities. But there are another 6 million Californians who are uninsured, including many adults and seniors living below the poverty level who don’t have dependent children and therefore don’t qualify for Medi-Cal.
California has been very successful at using its massive purchasing power to buy medicine for those covered by Medi-Cal at discounts of 50 percent and more. Prop. 79 would allow California to use this same leverage to negotiate and enforce discounts for an estimated 8 to 10 million low and moderate income Californians who don’t have health coverage or have insurance with inadequate prescription drug benefits.
“Far too many working families in California must pay full price for prescription drugs because they are uninsured or have bare bones health coverage,” said Dr. Geraldine Washington, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP. “Prop. 79 would make a real difference for Californians struggling to make ends meet and help them get access to the medicine they need.”
The pharmaceutical industry has raised over $80 million to try to defeat Prop. 79 and is pushing Prop. 78 – a discount program that is completely optional for drug companies. The voluntary program covers half as many Californians and could end at any time if not enough companies offer to participate.
“Californians deserve more than a promise from the drug companies to lower their prices,” said Assembly Member Judy Chu. “Prop. 79 does more than promise discounts – it will deliver them. We need enforceable discounts Californians can count on.”
Despite what the drug companies claim in their ads, Medi-Cal patients will continue to get access to the medication they need under Prop. 79 just as they do now. Prop. 79 ensures that Medi-Cal patients have at least one effective drug available on the preferred drug list for every ailment, so a doctor will always be able to provide treatment without having to get extra permission.
“Many Californians may be puzzled about Prop. 79 because the drug companies are spending millions to flood the airwaves with misleading ads,” said Assembly Member Mark Ridley Thomas.
“These drug companies are trying to scare voters about Prop. 79 because they know it will work to bring down prices. On Nov. 8, we’ll show the drug companies they can’t buy our votes.”
For more information, visit http://www.voteyesonprop79.com.