Ohio Issue 2’s yes, no sides debate 1 month before voters decide

A public forum in Columbus Wednesday night attempted to cut through that rhetoric of Issue 2, known as the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act
By Jason Aubry Published: September 22, 2017, 2:56 pm Updated: October 11, 2017, 11:47 pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Trying to untangle the complicated and controversial topic of Ohio’s Issue 2 on the November ballot is no easy task, especially when the rhetoric from both sides is so deeply entrenched.

Under what is also known as the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, the state would not be allowed to enter into a purchase agreement for prescription drugs unless the net cost is the same or lower than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The law would also require state payment of attorney fees and expenses for defense of the law.

Proponents of the act say its goal is to control prescription drug spending.

For months, Dale Butland and Matt Borges have gone head-to-head on TV and radio, discussing why Ohioans should vote for or against the measure. Their talking points have not changed much over the past few months.

Meanwhile, TV ads that some call deceptive continue to confuse the public’s understanding of what Issue 2 proposes to do. You have probably watched commercials for and against the issue for several weeks.

A public forum in Columbus Wednesday night attempted to cut through that rhetoric. Butland and Borges were invited to, once again, explain to voters in simple terms how the issue works and what it will do for them.

As we have come to expect from politically-charged issues, they used spins and pivots liberally.

New information did find its way into the discussion, however. Sprinkled throughout was talk of a fiscal analysis released Tuesday from the Governor’s Office of Budget and Management that ultimately found there to be “insufficient information to estimate savings.”

Read more: Fiscal analysis of Issue 2

Proponents of Issue 2 have continually claimed that passing the measure would save Ohioans $400 million. During the forum, Borges even referenced some passages from the study that sounded as if they supported this position, such as:

However, theoretically, if all the issues identified in this analysis were worked through to successfully implement Issue 2, it is likely there would be some state savings.”
As well as:

The other state entities and programs with prescription drug spending — OSU Medical Center, higher education institutions, state employee health benefits, workers’ compensation, institutional facilities, and CMH — are similar to one another in the amount of discounts and rebates they receive, which is far less than Medicaid. Thus, they generally appear to pay more than the VA pays for prescription drugs. So theoretically, if suppliers agreed to provide drugs currently purchased by the state and the VA at the lower VA prices without any manufacturer response or implementation impediments, there could be savings in the millions of dollars.”
However, he never clarified that such language carried with it significant caveats that made those savings unlikely.

Meanwhile, those opposing Issue 2 continued to field questions about where their funding comes from — predominantly, major pharmaceutical companies.

It is clear the “Vote Yes” campaign is taking an approach that focuses on the voter’s opinion of pharmaceutical companies, using negative terms in describing them.

The “Vote No” campaign wants voters to trust local opinions of medical professionals and newspapers, while painting a major financial backer of the “Vote Yes” campaign as an outsider trying to influence their vote.

In the end, both sides were able to get their messages out to the viewers. Which message stuck, and if it clarified this convoluted issue, remains to be seen.

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