Prop. 61: Bad for Patients, Harmful to Veterans, Expensive for Taxpayers

Oct. 9, 2016

With 17 propositions on California’s November ballot, there is one that stands out as particularly bad for patients, veterans and taxpayers: Proposition 61.  Prop. 61 is a deceptive, deeply-flawed measure that will increase prescription drug costs, jeopardize patient access to medicines and result in more bureaucracy, red tape and lawsuits that will cost taxpayers millions.  It also takes away a special prescription drug benefit promised to our veterans. That is why California Life Sciences Association (CLSA) has joined the No on Prop. 61 campaign – a broad-based coalition of more than 100 groups – in opposing the Proposition 61.

Prop. 61 imposes unworkable contracting requirements for some state prescription drug purchases based on prices paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It only applies to an arbitrary selection of Californians in certain state government programs. It would exclude more than 88% of Californians, including more than 10 million low-income patients in Medi-Cal, 20 million Californians with private health insurance and Medicare, 1.3 million in Covered California, and millions of others.

However, while the provisions of Prop. 61 don’t apply to many Californians, Proposition 61’s impacts are far reaching and could have negative impacts for all of Californians.

Veterans organizations oppose Proposition 61 because it could eliminate the special prescription drug discounts the VA receives for veterans and increase the prices veterans pay for medicines. That is why 20 military and veterans organizations oppose Prop. 61, including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Department of California; Vietnam Veterans of America, California State Council; AMVETS, Department of California; and American Legion, Department of California.

Experts warn that Prop 61 would actually increase prescription drug costs for the state and reduce patient access to needed medicines for the few state programs the measure does cover. The state’s nonpartisan, independent Legislative Analyst said “the measure could raise DHCS (Dept. of Health Care Services) spending on prescription drugs.”

California Medical Association, California Association of Rural Health Clinics and the California Hepatitis C Taskforce have joined other patient advocacy and physician groups in actively opposing Prop. 61. They warn Prop. 61 could disrupt patient access to medicines. That’s because Prop. 61 would invalidate many drug discount agreements the state has negotiated with pharmaceutical companies. Invalidating these contracts could increase state prescription drug costs by tens of millions of dollars annually and could also trigger a new bureaucratic prior approval process for patients, leading to delays in treatment or even denial of coverage for needed medicines.

Prop. 61’s language is completely vague and contains no guidance on how it would be implemented. Its passage would result in more government bureaucracy, more red tape and lawsuits as the state struggle to implement it – costing taxpayers millions.

The author and promoter of Prop 61 is Michael Weinstein, the controversial president of an organization that brought in more than $1 billion last year selling prescription drugs and operating HMOs. Suspiciously, he exempted his organization’s HMO from having to comply with his own measure. Weinstein says he wants to lower drug prices, but he is suing California so he can charge the state more for drugs. Additionally, five separate audits found Weinstein’s organization overbilled Los Angeles County by more than $6 billion.

Finally, Prop. 61 could have a negative effect on cutting edge research and cures. It costs $2.6 billion to do the years of research and tests necessary to develop a single new drug. If California and other states pass laws that set price limits on innovative drugs, it would limit investments in the research and development of new drugs and cures. In turn, this could harm California’s life sciences sector, which has generated nearly $130 billion in revenues and more than 1 million California jobs.

Join us in opposing Prop 61, the deceptive prescription contracting measure.  You can sign up at, and Like No on Prop 61 on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. We encourage you to vote NO on Prop 61 in November!