Vote No on Proposition 78
Vote Yes on Proposition 79
Proposition 79 is a proposal from labor and consumer groups to start a discount
program for prescription drugs in California. It would cover several million people
and has provisions which would give the state leverage in persuading drug companies
to give discounts. It also allows the state attorney general to sue drug companies
Proposition 78 was put on the ballot by the big drug companies, who have pledged
tens of millions of dollars to pass it. It's only on the ballot to knock out
Proposition 79. If it gets more votes than Proposition 79, it knocks out every
single provision of Prop 79 (not just conflicting ones). If it creates enough
confusion that neither proposition passes, that's okay with Big Pharma, too.
Proposition 78 would cost just as much in tax dollars as Proposition 79. The benefit
would go to big drug companies instead of consumers.
How they'd work
Prop 79 sets up a new drug discount program which would be linked to Medi-Cal to
obtain rebates on drugs from manufacturers. The state has a system for obtaining
lower drug prices for people enrolled in Medicare by speeding up approval of
prescriptions. This would extend that system to let the state negotiate lower
rates with pharmacies and manufacturers.
Proposition 78 would have only voluntary participation by drug companies, with no
state leverage to obtain lower prices.
Proposition 79 would cover several million individuals and families with incomes
below 400% of the federal poverty level or with medical expenses of more than 5%
of their income. They'd pay $10 per year to enroll in the program.
Prop 78 would only cover people with incomes below 300% of the federal poverty
level. It doesn't cover people with high medical expenses at all. It also
specifically excludes people who had other drug plans, even if those plans were
no good. It would cost $15 per year.
Employer health plans
Prop 78 allows the state program to be used in negotiating discounts on behalf
of employer-sponsored and industry health plans. The state would only help plans
where the employer paid over 50% of the plan costs. This would encourage employee
Prop 79 would knock that out.
Prop 79 creates a nine-member Prescription Drug Advisory Board to monitor drug
prices and availability and issue regular reports.
The big drug companies are terrified of having the light shine on their business
practices. Prop 78 would knock out that provision.
Prop 79 makes it a civil violation if a drug maker "demands an unconscionable
price," "exacts or demands prices or terms that led to any unjust or
unreasonable profit," "discriminates unreasonably against any person,"
or "intentionally prevents ... or restricts the sale or distribution of
prescription drugs in this State in retaliation for the provisions of this
chapter." The attorney general is given power to sue on behalf of the people.
With their profits running at three times the average of other corporations in
the U.S., the big pharma companies fear attacks on price gouging more than anything
else. Prop 78 would knock out this provision.
This one's a "no-brainer." You can vote to regulate the drug companies
and get lower drug prices for millions of people. That's a "Yes" vote on
Prop 79 and a "No" vote on Prop 78.
Or, you can trust the drug companies to take care of you.
Proposition 79 will save some people's lives and make the lives of others easier.
It's still just a stopgap.
We need to move away from a system where we're arguing about which group of people
should get which benefit, and toward one where everyone's health needs are met
equally. Instead of bureaucracies built to determine who's eligible for this or
that, we need to commit ourselves as a society to keeping everyone as healthy as
possible. Health care should be treated as a human need, not a profit opportunity.
We need one universal system of health care for all. It's cheaper than supporting
bloated corporate bureaucracies and profits, it's more equitable, and it's easier
to administer. Proposition 79 will give us some of the tools to incorporate into
such a system, but it's not a substitute for one.