What Is Prop. 61 And How Would It Affect Veterans?

The upcoming election in California has many voters perplexed, on the fence, and in need of a translator to understand the intimidating legalese on the ballot. Californians are wondering what a "yes" or a "no" might really look like down the line.

Worry no more - we've got you covered!

Californians are rethinking the status quo when it comes to prescription costs.

Californians are rethinking the status quo when it comes to prescription costs.

Here's what you need to know about Prop. 61:

Prop. 61 addresses the prices paid for drugs by California state agencies, and is an attempt to respond to (and fight) the price gouging that we've been seeing in recent years. Those that would profit from high prescription costs have been the targets of public outcry over events such as the overnight increase of the cost of a medicine by 2,000%, which recently happened for a common gout prescription - and in the cases of Martin Shkreli and (most recently) the EpiPen.

Prop. 61 is officially called the "California Drug Price Relief Act," and it aims to clamp down on drug pricing by prohibiting the state from paying more for a drug than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does. The VA pays the lowest price for prescription drugs of any entity, public or private, because they automatically get a discount, thanks to a federal mandate. Then, on top of this discount, officials often negotiate even lower prices on a case by case basis.

The state directly purchases medicines for prison inmates - millions of prescriptions every year.

The state directly purchases medicines for prison inmates - millions of prescriptions every year.

What does this mean?

This means that when the state directly purchases drugs - like for prison inmates - or as the "ultimate buyer," such as when reimbursing pharmacies for medication purchased by Californians covered by certain programs, the price cap for these medicines would match that of the VA.

Those who support this proposition include nurses' associations and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and it's sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The "Yes" movement is known as Californians for Lower Drug Prices, and they argue that this measure will save Californians money, increase access to health care, and take a stand against the price gouging practices that have been driving high prescription prices.

Proposition 61 would prohibit the state from buying any prescription drug that is priced higher than what the Department of Veterans Affairs pays for the same drug.

Those who do NOT support this proposition include mostly pharmaceutical research interests, pharmaceutical companies, and veterans groups. Because drug price increases for the VA are tied to consumer price index, many veterans and veterans groups are concerned that Prop. 61 would result in pharmaceutical companies simply raising the price on veterans. However - this only applies to publicly available price ceilings, not the additional discounts that the agency will be able to receive.

In addition to numerous veterans' groups, The California Medical Association and the California State Council of Laborers are also in opposition to this measure. They say that Prop. 61 only covers an arbitrary group of Californians - more than 88% of Californians are excluded from it, based on their health coverage - and are concerned for the potential negative ripple effects it could have.

The state of California has nearly 18 million registered voters - are you one of them?

The state of California has nearly 18 million registered voters - are you one of them?

Across the board, though, there are general uncertainties about how Prop. 61 would affect veterans, and Californians, if at all.

At this point, groups on either side of the debate are simply theorizing about its possible ramifications. For more information on Proposition 61, and the other items on the ballot this fall, check out this handy non-partisan voter guide and - regardless of where you land on the arguments - get out and vote!