Ad featuring veteran against drug-pricing initiative misleads on copays

One 30-second ad against Proposition 61, the drug-pricing initiative, features the story of an Iraq War veteran to argue against its passage. But the spot incorrectly states that the measure would increase co-pays for veterans.
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One 30-second ad against Proposition 61, the drug-pricing initiative, features the story of an Iraq War veteran to argue against its passage. But the spot incorrectly states that the measure would increase co-pays for veterans.
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Capitol Alert

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Capitol Alert

Opponents of drug-price measure use veterans to raise cost-increase fears

By Christopher Cadelago

ccadelago@sacbee.com

October 25, 2016 10:59 AM

Drug-company funded TV ads urging Californians to oppose Proposition 61, which deals with prescription drug prices, have been filling broadcasts. Some of the spots feature U.S. veterans arguing that not only will the measure not save money, as it purports to do, but that it would actually harm their bottom lines.

One of the 30-second ads, titled “Marty,” features the story of an Iraq War veteran.

Text

I was in Fallujah in 2004. A rocket came and blew up. It killed one, wounded two others, plus myself. All my prescriptions come from the VA. My primary care is at the VA. Any non-veteran that I spoke to about Prop. 61 is totally amazed that anybody would do anything that would increase the costs for veterans. Any time that you increase the cost of a copay for a veteran you put them into financial dire straits. I urge you to vote no on 61.

Analysis

The opponents of Proposition 61 have put more than $100 million behind its defeat. The measure would bar state government entities from spending more for medications than the lowest price paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which generally gets big discounts.

Federal law mandates a 24 percent discount for the VA, but the discount is sometimes more, and some veterans’ groups worry that the VA would no longer be able to negotiate deeper discounts should Proposition 61 become law. They also warn that drug companies could simply compensate by raising prices.

The VA has warned that its prescription drug costs could increase by $3.8 billion a year, should drug prices be adjusted upward to the limits imposed by the federal cap. That does not necessarily mean drug prices for individual veterans would increase, because the federal government could make up the shortfall in other ways. The ad is misleading because it flatly assumes that result.

There also is no truth to the suggestion the measure increases the cost of a veteran’s copay. VA recipients have fixed co-pays, while some qualify for free health care altogether.

Some veteran groups opposing the measure have received between $500 and $4,000 for meetings, appearances and other expenses.

PoliGRAPH is The Bee’s political fact checker, rating campaign advertisements and candidate claims as True, Iffy or False.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago