Coalition demands prescription drug bill

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The chambers of Cleveland’s City Hall were filled with the chants of 400 people rallying June 24 for prescription drug coverage. The meeting, hosted by Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, urged passage of two bills before the Ohio legislature, HB-290 and SB-127. The bills would create a prescription drug program for the state.

Campbell opened the meeting stating that 2.2 million Ohioans need prescription drug coverage because they have none. “Seniors, grandparents and the children they care for, working mothers and their children, and many others who are not eligible for Medicaid, all need HB-290 and SB-127,” she said. “The Ohio Legislature failed to act on these bills.”

Ohioans are becoming more and more angry that the Ohio State Legislature, at the behest of Governor Bob Taft, bottled the two bills up in committee and wouldn’t allow a floor vote, despite enormous pressure building up for the legislation.

Twenty statewide organizations have joined together in a coalition supporting the bills, including the AARP, Ohio Council of Churches, the Ohio Public Health Association and nearly all unions, including the Ohio State AFL-CIO and most state affiliates.

The coalition continues to grow, with 48 cities, eight counties and 290 grassroots organizations joining it.

“Widows, retirees, unemployed with children, can’t pay for prescription drugs; many are going to Canada,” said Kevin Patton, the Republican mayor of Solon, one of the first cities to endorse the bill. “Government must intervene and act now!”

State Rep. James Trakas, chairman of the Republican Party in Cuyahoga County, spoke for the bills. Calling on action at both the state and federal levels, Trakas said, “We have in Cuyahoga County some of the greatest hospitals in the world, and a medical industry creating one wonder drug after another, but what good are they if people do not have access to the drugs?”

“Make support for HB-290 and SB-127 the criteria for supporting anyone running for election this year,” Trakas told the crowd.

Democratic State Sen. Eric Fingerhut emphasized that the Ohio Prescription Drug Act mandates the state to negotiate with the drug companies for a discounted rate for all Ohio citizens who need it and wish to participate. “The drug companies set the prices for prescription drugs and they are fighting the bills,” he said.

Pam Rosado, financial secretary and political director for Service Employees International Union Local 47, brought the crowd to ovation after ovation.“Prescription drug coverage is all about people, seniors, children, poor people,” she said. “The drug companies are all about sales and profits, and they try to push you into buying their drugs whether you need them or not!”

Rosado urged everyone present to call their state legislators and demand they pass the prescription drug bills this year. “Let them know they won’t be in Columbus after November if they don’t support this legislation,” she said.

The author can be reached at wallyk@ncweb.com