• WisBusiness

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Outdated law costs consumers on prescription drugs


By Lisa Nelson
An outdated law is preventing Wisconsin consumers from saving money, and it's time we change that law.

Last week a handful of state Senators voted to make sure that doesn't happen. Senators Vinehout, Schultz and Kapanke voted no to move Assembly Bill 482 to the full Senate. This bill would exempt prescription drugs from this law, giving Wisconsin consumers access to lower prices consumers enjoy in most other states.

At Walmart, we have a generic prescription drug program offering more than 300 generic prescriptions at the price of $4 -- but not in Wisconsin. Some are priced higher in Wisconsin due to this law. As of March 2010, Walmart estimates it has saved Wisconsin customers more than $41 million since launching the program in September of 2006.

This savings would be millions more if we could offer the entire $4 program. Not to mention, this is the customer savings from only Walmart's program in Wisconsin, and does not include savings from other retailers that offer similar pricing. This $4 generic pricing has been a game-changer in increasing the affordability of prescription drugs.

The bill passed the Assembly Health Committee with a 10-2 majority, and passed the state Assembly. It's sponsored by Republicans and Democrats, and supported by a diverse coalition of groups representing labor, business, health care, seniors and local government. Newspapers across the state, economists and think tanks have opined that it's time for these kinds of laws to be taken off the books.

This is a simple health care reform that costs government nothing. In fact, by removing this price barrier, there could be significant cost savings to taxpayers in the prescriptions we pay for through government programs.

So what's the problem? Opponents argue their businesses can't survive with a low price business model, and this repeal will lead the way to similar reforms lowering the price of gas and other products. They claim there will be illegal "predatory" pricing through below cost promotions. However, the truth is that federal anti-trust laws already provide protection against inappropriate predatory pricing activities and AB 482 includes a predatory pricing provision.

Competition has changed since this law was created in 1939. Competition is no longer just down the street, it is increasingly global, immediately accessible and open for business 24 hours a day. When businesses rely on government intervention to succeed or survive, it disincentivizes the very innovation and creativity spurred by competition, necessary in a free market system, and critical to the health of our Wisconsin economy.

This law puts Wisconsin consumers at a disadvantage. There is no reason we should pay more than anyone else for our prescription drugs. Call your state senator today at 1-800-362-9472 and ask them to pass AB482 before the legislature adjourns.

-- Nelson is a senior public affairs manager for Walmart.

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