More than 25 years ago, I founded “Stand Down Sacramento,” an annual three-day conference to provide services to homeless veterans. They need all the support we can give, and the last thing they need is yet another barrier to getting that support.
Proposition 61 would be one of those barriers. I worry that it will put all vets further behind, but especially those who can least afford to take another step backward.
The measure would take away a special benefit provided to veterans and would raise their health care costs. Hundreds of veterans in the Sacramento region are homeless, disabled and living paycheck to paycheck. This is a proposition they cannot afford.
Proposition 61 would prohibit the state from entering into contracts for prescription drugs unless the prices are the same or lower than the special discounts provided to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA found that Proposition 61 could increase costs to the VA by $3.8 billion a year. If that happens, there will be pressure to either cut services or pass the higher costs on to veterans.
Either would be devastating to veterans. That’s why more than 20 leading military and veterans’ groups have joined a broad coalition of more than 170 California organizations to oppose Proposition 61.
But the initiative isn’t just bad for veterans; it’s bad for everyone.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office cannot determine whether Proposition 61 will save the state any money. In fact, state health care spending could go up. Not only could the state pay more for prescription drugs, but patients would have to go through a cumbersome approval process before getting their medicine, putting bureaucrats between patients and their doctors.
That’s why the California Medical Association, representing 41,000 doctors, opposes Proposition 61 and said it would “interfere with patient access to the medicines they need.”
Similarly, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System raises red flags over “decreased access to certain drugs for CalPERS members” and “increased administrative costs” under Proposition 61.
Proposition 61 contains no guidance on how it will work in the real world. It would result in more government red tape and lawsuits as state agencies struggle to implement it, costing taxpayers millions. Proposition 61 is opposed by the California Taxpayers Association.
Our veterans were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for this country, and we must do everything in our power to protect them. That’s why the American Legion has joined with Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America and many other veterans groups, labor unions and businesses to stop this deceptive and costly measure from becoming law.
Don Harper of Sacramento is legislative commission chairman of the American Legion in California and wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the No on Proposition 61 campaign. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.