Friday, March 28, 2008


Isn't it great when it happens?

by Larry Geller

I-Save RX I love when the opposition gives me a line I can pick up and run with. A deputy Attorney General did that today.

I went to the Legislature to testify on HB7, a bill that would join Hawaii with five other states (Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri and Vermont) in a purchasing program that imports prescription medications from overseas. Snippet from the Illinois web page:

I-Save RX2

This would be an option, not a mandate. It would be one way that seniors, persons with disabilities, or those on fixed or low incomes could lower their costs for medicine. Many insurance plans don't include a drug benefit. Costs for these medicines are soaring, along, of course, with drug company profits.

Testimony has been overwhelmingly in support of this bill, which has passed both houses of the Legislature without a single No vote.

The only testimony against has come from the pharmaceutical industry (predictably), from the Attorney General's office and also from a representative of Lillian Koller, Department of Human Services, saying it would interfere with their priorities (pity that saving seniors money has not been their priority).

The deputy AG has testified that it is illegal, but under questioning, admitted that no one has been arrested for participating.

Millions of Americans are purchasing drugs from Canada or other countries. It turns out that these are the same drugs purchased here at grossly inflated prices. Our drugs, like almost everything else, it seems, are made in factories overseas.

Well, today there was a different deputy AG. He did say that the program was illegal under federal law, but indicated that the AG's office did not oppose the bill.

After extensive questioning, he said, and you gotta love this: "Nobody in their right mind would oppose lower drug costs." I wrote this down as fast as I could scrawl on the screen of my tablet PC. And I'm going to send it to Lillian Koller.

You may recall that the Administration is refusing to implement Rx Plus, the program that would negotiate discounts for prescription drugs. Yes, it's the law, and last session the Legislature changed "may" to "shall" so that there would be no excuse. There is no excuse, but DHS continues to ignore the law. Seniors should have had  the benefit of lower prices since 2004.

Of course, the governor wants to remain friends with her rich buddies in the drug industry. Campaigns depend on these folks with deep pockets, and they do get returns on their investments, it seems.

Let's see if the governor vetoes this bill (See: cheating seniors out of their prescription benefits).

If she does, we can remind her that "Nobody in their right mind would oppose lower drug costs."

I hope the deputy AG doesn't get fired for this.

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