More than $20 million in ads to hit Ohio airwaves on drug prices ballot issue

Published: Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 2:03 PM

Pill bottles sit on the shelf of Waynesville Pharmacy. If approved, Issue 2, an initiated statute, would limit state expenditures on prescription drugs for about 4 million Ohioans. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Pill bottles sit on the shelf of Waynesville Pharmacy. If approved, Issue 2, an initiated statute, would limit state expenditures on prescription drugs for about 4 million Ohioans. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Get ready to see more ads from both the supporters and opponents of state Issue 2, the prescription drug price ballot initiative.

The campaigns have already been saturating Ohio airwaves with ads urging voters to adopt or reject the measure, and spending on media is expanding starting this week.

The “Ohio Drug Price Relief Act,” which voters will see on the Nov. 7 ballot, would require that state agencies like the Department of Medicaid pay the same or lower prices for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

RELATED: Ohio’s drug price ballot issue: What’s really going on?

Proponents say the measure will save the state between $350 million and $400 million annually that could be used for other state programs, like fighting the opioid epidemic. The opposition — financially backed by big pharma, but made up of dozens of organizations representing veterans, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and business — says the measure is unworkable and won’t produce the promised results. They say it could actually lead to higher drug prices for the majority of Ohioans who get prescriptions through private or employer insurance.

So far, the ad war has been lopsided in favor of the opposition, Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue, which has outspent supporters by about 5 to 1. That trend is expected to continue as the No campaign is funded by the deep-pocketed Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade organization that represents dozens of major drug companies.

RELATED: Issue 2 supporters say opposition is hiding donor info

Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices, the proponents, is mostly funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a California non-profit that serves AIDS patients around the globe, including through several pharmacy locations in Ohio.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Issue 2 opponents have purchased about $19.5 million in airtime, including about $1.7 million for the current week beginning Wednesday. Those numbers include ads on both broadcast and a variety of cable channels in 11 cities, including three in West Virginia, according to the Dispatch.

The anti-issue spending for the week is highest in the three Cs: Cleveland ($380,261), Cincinnati ($354,119), and Columbus ($284,147), records show.

Issue 2 proponents have spent or purchased about $4 million on television advertising, including roughly $1 million in the current week, according to the Dispatch reporting.

Matt Borges, former GOP state party chair and a supporter of the ballot issue, said the ads are ramping up because this is the time when voters start really paying attention. 

“We’re up against an onslaught of spending by the drug companies who are trying to confuse voters,” he said.

RELATED: Battle over drug pricing comes to Ohio with costly campaign, TV ads

Dale Butland, spokesman for the opposition, said the campaign is fighting an uphill battle to educate voters.

“Their whole pitch is, ‘You want lower drug prices?… Vote yes,’” he said. “That’s a very attractive proposition to people, because so many people are struggling to pay their drug costs. So what we have to do is explain to people that something that sounds really good, is not in fact a good idea, will not do what it promises, and in fact will only make things worse. That’s a much more expensive proposition than the other side.”

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, which were filed June 30, PhRMA gave $15.8 million to the opposition campaign. AHF contributed nearly all of the $3.6 million that `Issue 2 proponents reported receiving. The next filing deadline in not until late October, a couple of weeks before the election.

The campaign could end up being the most expensive in Ohio history. A similar measure in California, with backing from the same two sides was defeated last year 53 percent to 47 percent. For that campaign, supporters spent $19 million and opponents nearly $110 million.

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What Ohio lawmakers are saying about the Iran nuclear deal

Published: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 5:47 PM
Updated: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 9:04 AM

President Trump Addresses Iran Nuclear Deal

Ohio lawmakers split down party lines Thursday not only on whether President Donald Trump should have refused to certify the Iran nuclear agreement but whether the Obama administration should have backed the deal in the first place.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D–Niles, acknowledged that the pact is not “perfect,” but said it “remains our best chance for lasting peace and nuclear nonproliferation in Iran.” He called Trump’s decision to not certify the agreement “a grave mistake.”

“There is no doubt that this deal is in the best interests of the United States and helps to neutralize a potential nuclear threat to the world,” he said.

He called Trump’s announcement “yet another example of the egregious mismanagement of our foreign policy (that) does nothing to reassure our allies that the United States is leading with a steady hand.”

The decision does not end the agreement outright, but instead sends it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran. Ryan called for Congress “to do the right thing” to avoid an international crisis.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio, meanwhile, worried that while Trump’s decision doesn’t end the agreement, it could lead to its unraveling. He said failure to adhere to the Iran deal might make allies and North Korea question whether the United States will stand by its commitments.

“There is no question we must crack down on Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, including its support for terrorism — which is exactly why Congress enacted tough new sanctions this summer,” he said. “The president should use those sanctions, instead of leading us down a path toward unraveling the Iran nuclear agreement, which his own defense secretary has said would not be in our national interest.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the multi-nation agreement under Obama “has empowered Iran to increase its destabilizing activities throughout the region, while at best pausing — not dismantling — Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons and delivery systems.”

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He said he would like the U.S. to implement a comprehensive regional strategy to combat Iran’s influence “and hold it accountable for both its nuclear program and its destabilizing non-nuclear activities, including its support for sectarian militias and terrorist groups like Hezbollah, human rights violations, and increasing involvement in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere.”

Republican Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, one of four GOP candidates for governor, tweeted, “Obama’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal shipped billions to the world’s #1 state sponsor of terrorism & green lighted their nuclear weapons program. It threatens both America’s security & Israel’s existence. Thank you @realDonaldTrump for taking a critical step towards ending it.”

Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, said Trump’s decision should force Congress to develop a strategy “with stricter enforcement to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

“The Iranian regime has consistently remained hostile to Israel, violated multiple UN resolutions to build their ballistic missile program, and has posed a wide range of threats to the region and our own national security,” he said.

Rep. Bill Johnson, R–Marietta, said the U.S. should never have agreed to the deal.

“It only temporarily restricts Iran’s nuclear program, and does little to deter Tehran from continuing its thirst for nuclear weapons and technology — all while filling the regime’s coffers,” he said. “Not only has Iran repeatedly displayed a disturbing pattern of behavior while continuing to recruit and fund terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq, but the Iranian regime’s continued nuclear testing on military sites also undermines the standards set by the international community to promote security and regional stability.”

Rep. Steve Stivers, R–Upper Arlington, said he, too, was never comfortable with the Iran deal.

“From the very beginning, I had concerns about the Iran Deal because it is based on the failed North Korea Deal and did not include restrictions on the development of technology used to weaponize nuclear energy, such as triggers, fuses, and ballistic missiles,” he said. “I believe this decision will allow a new agreement to be negotiated which will include language to prevent a nuclear armed Iran.”

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said the deal had “an insufficient inspection regime, insufficiently addresses long range ICBM missile development, and is limited to 10 years, giving the appearance of permission to develop nuclear weapons during the 11th year.”

However, he said, he believes that Iran is “materially complying with the provisions that require Iran abandon pursuit of the development of nuclear weapons.”

“After the President’s statements today, the international community and Congress must provide sufficient leverage for amending the agreement in ways that could ensure Iran never obtains nuclear weapons,” he said.

Kasich criticizes President Trump actions on health care as ‘outrageous’

Published: Sunday, October 15, 2017 @ 2:10 PM
Updated: Sunday, October 15, 2017 @ 2:10 PM

Gov. John Kasich
Ron Schwane
Gov. John Kasich(Ron Schwane)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said it is “outrageous” President Donald Trump and lawmakers from both parties have not forged a compromise aimed at both stabilizing the 2010 health law and continuing federal dollars to help middle-income Americans afford their federally subsidized policies.

 

During an appearance Sunday on NBC’ Meet the Press Kasich assailed Trump’s decision last week to end those federal payments, saying the move will “impose higher costs on” on families who bought individual insurance policies made available through the law which is known as Obamacare.

“Some people will not be able to afford health insurance, or people will have to make very significant choices,” Kasich said. “And I’m talking about hard-working people, trying to work their way up and out of their situation.’’

But Kasich, who has emerged as a sharp critic of Trump, expanded his disapproval to include congressional Democrats and Republicans, charging Democrats are not showing much interest in a potential compromise to stabilize Obamacare, an accord being negotiated by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

“You know, Alexander and Murray . . . were out there doing things, and then they, like, disappeared,” Kasich said.

“It's a shame on everybody,” Kasich said. “And who gets hurt? People. And it's just, it just, it’s outrageous.”

Kasich and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper outlined a plan last month aimed at stabilizing the exchanges and preventing the federally subsidized individual market from collapse.

Kasich’s attack on both parties fueled speculation he is considering an independent bid for the presidency in 2020. Although Kasich said he did “not know what I’m going to do tomorrow,” he pointedly said his wife Karen told him last week, “John, I wish you were president.”

“That's how I knew the country was in trouble,” Kasich joked.

Kasich’s comments on Obamacare represent a shift from his presidential campaign rhetoric. As governor, he accepted hundreds of millions of dollars made available through Obamacare to expand Medicaid health coverage to more than 700,000 low-income people in Ohio.

But he refused to establish a state marketplace established by Obamacare where middle-income people could buy federally subsidized individual policies. Instead, people in Ohio had to buy their policies through a marketplace – known as an exchange – established by the federal government.

During a testy exchange with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during a Republican presidential debate last year in South Carolina, Kasich defended his decision to expand Medicaid coverage, but declared he “did not set up an exchange. And (Bush) knows that I’m not for Obamacare, never have been.”

Obamacare cut the number of Americans without health insurance or government-provided coverage by 40 percent. The law expanded Medicaid and provided federal subsidies to allow middle-income people could buy individual plans through exchanges established by the states or federal government.

A family of four earning as much as $98,000 a year could use federal tax credits to buy any of those plans.

For families of four earning up to $61,000 a year, there was an additional benefit. If they bought a silver plan, the federal government offered cost-sharing subsidies to reduce deductibles or other out-of-pocket expenses.

Congressional Republicans never agreed to spend money for the cost-sharing subsidies and Trump last week said they would be ended later this year.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-research organization in Washington, calculated that 7.1 million of the 12.2 million people who bought policies through the exchanges receive cost - sharing payments, concluding the payments reduced out-of-pocket expenses for the typical family by roughly $5,500 a year.

Some people will not be able to afford health insurance, or people will have to make very significant choices,” Kasich said. “And I’m talking about hard-working people, trying to work their way up and out of their situation.’’

But Kasich, who has emerged as a sharp critic of Trump, expanded his disapproval to include congressional Democrats and Republicans, charging Democrats are not showing much interest in a potential compromise to stabilize Obamacare, an accord being negotiated by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

“You know, Alexander and Murray … were out there doing things, and then they, like, disappeared,” Kasich said.

“It’s a shame on everybody,” Kasich said. “And who gets hurt? People. And it’s just, it just, it’s outrageous.”

Kasich’s attack on both parties fueled speculation he is considering an independent bid for the presidency in 2020. Although Kasich said he did “not know what I’m going to do tomorrow,” he pointedly said his wife Karen told him last week, “John, I wish you were president.”

RELATED: Kasich on Trump Afghanistan decision: ‘Not the way I think we should go’

Some people will not be able to afford health insurance, or people will have to make very significant choices,” Kasich said. “And I’m talking about hard-working people, trying to work their way up and out of their situation.’’

But Kasich, who has emerged as a sharp critic of Trump, expanded his disapproval to include congressional Democrats and Republicans, charging Democrats are not showing much interest in a potential compromise to stabilize Obamacare, an accord being negotiated by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

“You know, Alexander and Murray … were out there doing things, and then they, like, disappeared,” Kasich said.

“It’s a shame on everybody,” Kasich said. “And who gets hurt? People. And it’s just, it just, it’s outrageous.”

Kasich’s attack on both parties fueled speculation he is considering an independent bid for the presidency in 2020. Although Kasich said he did “not know what I’m going to do tomorrow,” he pointedly said his wife Karen told him last week, “John, I wish you were president.”

6 years after bears and tigers were set loose in Ohio: what’s changed?

Published: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 5:54 PM


            In an August 2008 photo, Terry Thompson stands with some of his award-winning Percheron horses on his farm west of Zanesville, Ohio. Authorities said Thompson, a game-preserve owner, apparently freed dozens of wild animals, including tigers and grizzly bears, and then killed himself on Oct. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Zanesville Times Recorder, Chris Crook)
In an August 2008 photo, Terry Thompson stands with some of his award-winning Percheron horses on his farm west of Zanesville, Ohio. Authorities said Thompson, a game-preserve owner, apparently freed dozens of wild animals, including tigers and grizzly bears, and then killed himself on Oct. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Zanesville Times Recorder, Chris Crook)

On Oct. 18, 2011, Ohio gained world attention when sheriff’s deputies put down 49 wild animals that had been set free by a distraught man who then committed suicide.

Among the animals killed that day: 18 tigers, 17 lions, eight bears, three mountain lions, one baboon and two wolves.

Almost immediately, Ohio lawmakers enacted strict rules on the ownership of exotic animals. Here are three things that changed in the aftermath of the bizarre, surreal event:

1. Ohio went from having some of the nation’s loosest laws on the private exotic animal ownership to having some of the toughest. Owners had to register and micro-chip their animals, and meet strict standards on housing, training, transportation, insurance and enclosures. The law also prohibited the acquisition of more animals — except for certain species — and the state could seize animals from owners who failed to meet the standards.

2. A $3 million, 20,000-square-foot temporary holding facility was constructed in Reynoldsburg to house, feed, transport and care for animals that are either seized or surrendered to the state as part of the state law. The Ohio Department of Agriculture won’t say how many animals are housed there at any one time, citing security concerns, but since it opened in early 2013 the facility has held 207 animals, including 107 American alligators, 39 snakes, 18 black bears, 16 tigers, seven brown bears, and five cougars. Operation costs since it opened have totaled $3.6 million.

3. It’s safe to say that Ohio has fewer private owners. It’s not known just how many fewer exotic animal owners there are because they were harder to track prior to the passage of the law. But the numbers are down even since the law was passed. So far this year, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has issued 45 permits for 163 animals. That’s down from 64 permits for 218 animals in 2014, the first year the new regulations were in effect.

“I think it was a needed law,” said state veterinarian Dr. Melissa Simmerman. “Before this law went into effect, Ohio was one of the few states left in the country that had no dangerous wild animal-type regulations.”

But not everyone is happy with the law. Mona Kerby, who lives in Butler County and has owned an eight-pound monkey, Bella, for 13 years, said she has to pay $1,350 a year for insurance because of the law, and also submit to home inspections and mandated visits to a veterinarian.

“I do think there should be restrictions. but they should be reasonable,” Kerby said.

Some in Montgomery County GOP angry over possible endorsement vote

Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 4:51 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 @ 1:14 PM

Local GOP fight brewing over possible endorsement

A faction of the Montgomery County Republican Party is pushing for an endorsement Wednesday night of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted for governor, a move that is unpopular with other party leaders, according to Rob Scott, senior campaign advisor to one of the other three candidates: U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth.

“There are a bunch of people in the county party who are very much against this,” said Scott, who is vice mayor of Kettering and a member of the party’s central committee.

Husted, Renacci, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are all running for the Republican nomination in the 2018 election. The primary is May 8.

Husted supporter, State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said the grassroots support is behind Husted, who he called “our native son in Montgomery County” who “is going to be our next governor.”

“We have the votes. It’s going to happen,” Antani said. “I understand there are people out there who would like to see this not happen….They’re running scared so they are trying to cause trouble.”

Husted attended the University of Dayton and stayed in the area after graduation, eventually representing part of the region in the Ohio House and Senate. He no longer lives in Montgomery County.

Husted’s campaign spokesman Josh Eck said he was unaware of the plan to vote, but added, “I want the endorsement of all the county Republican parties. We are appreciative to hear the support that he has.”

The Williams County GOP has endorsed Husted, Eck said.

RELATED: Jon Husted running for Ohio governor

Dave Luketic, spokesman for DeWine’s campaign, said the Lucas County Republican Party endorsed DeWine but many county parties are likely to wait until after the filing deadline for the race next year.

“We are working every single committee in every single county for any type of endorsement,” Luketic said. “It is our expectation that the Montgomery County Republican Party will follow its tradition and bylaws in screening possible candidates for any office.”

He said endorsements can bring resources, staff and volunteers to a campaign.

DeWine was born in Springfield and started his political career in Greene County as prosecutor, later representing the region in the statehouse and in Congress. He lives in Cedarville.

RELATED: Mike DeWine running for governor

At the Montgomery County GOP meeting DeWine will have “a lot of supporters,” Luketic said, noting that DeWine spoke to the central committee this summer.

“Mike DeWine enjoys a large support base in Montgomery County,” Luketic said. “Recent polling shows it to be one of the strongest areas in the state.”

Taylor’s spokesman, Michael Duchesne, said Taylor has not yet met with the central committee. He said but she will win the nomination by “competing for the hearts and minds of conservative Republican voters.”

“What’s Jon Husted afraid of? I have absolute trust in the GOP primary voters of Montgomery County to do the right thing and let the process play out as it has since time immemorial,” Duchesne said.

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor makes run for Ohio governor official

The Montgomery County Republican Party typically does interviews to screen candidates before doing endorsements. Those interviews have not occurred, so a vote would be against the regular order, Scott said.

Also, he said, the agenda for the Wednesday central committee meeting does not include a vote on endorsing in that race, although Husted is scheduled to speak, along with State Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, R-Marysville, who is running for secretary of state.

“I think that the full body of the central committee should hear from all the candidates and the county party should follow procedure and process when it comes to endorsements of candidates,” said Scott, noting that Renacci’s schedule in Washington, D.C., has prevented him from speaking to the central committee.

RELATED: Renacci jumps into governor’s race with ‘Ohio First’ campaign

Antani countered that the party bylaws allow a vote without following previous screening procedures.

Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Phil Plummer, who has the authority to allow or disallow the endorsement vote, could not be reached for comment.

The central committee meeting is at 6 p.m. at Celebrations Banquet Center II, 7615 Poe Ave., Harrison Twp.

Candidates for the Democratic nomination include Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.

The winner will replace Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who is term-limited.

RELATED: Democratic governor candidates focus on jobs, addiction in debate