SACRAMENTO – Prominent HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ advocates, including leaders in the health and entertainment sectors, today denounced Proposition 61 on California’s November ballot, calling the deeply-flawed prescription drug proposition a “bumper sticker selling change” that could lead to higher drug costs, delayed access to medicines, and increased bureaucracy and red tape. These individuals and organizations join more than 150 other veterans, patient advocacy, physician, taxpayer, civil rights and senior groups opposed to Prop. 61.
“Prop 61 is just a bumper sticker selling change. It lacks thoughtful policies that would help with patient access issues, and might well make things worse,” said Peter Staley, AIDS activist and Founder of Treatment AIDS Group.
Staley added: “It’s not surprising that Prop 61 is promoted by Michael Weinstein, who has taken other positions contrary to what is best for patients, including opposing the FDA approval of PrEP.”
Michael Weinstein authored the measure. He is the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which has provided nearly 100% of the funding for Prop. 61.
The respected HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ advocates opposed to Prop. 61 include the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club; Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club; Fresno Stonewall Democrats, Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team; and the following individuals:
- Cleve Jones, Founder of the AIDS Quilt
- Hilary Rosen, Former Chair, Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
- Neil Giuliano, Former CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Former National CEO of GLAAD
- Diane Abbitt, First Co-Chair AIDS Project LA and Former President of Equality California
- Jeremy Bernard, First Gay White House Social Secretary
- Sally Fisher, Author of “Don’t Just Stand There. Do Something” and Founder of INTERSECT Worldwide
- Kevin Frost, CEO, The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR)
- Robin McGehee, Founder of Get Equal and Co-Chair of 2009 March on Washington
- Reverend Troy Perry, Founder, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC)
- Kevin Sessums, Writer, editor
- Michael Silverman, Former CEO, National Transgender Legal and Education Defense Fund
- Peter Staley, AIDS activist and Founder of Treatment AIDS Group
- For a full of individuals opposed to Prop. 61 click here.
HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ activists from the entertainment sector who oppose Prop 61 include:
- Dustin Lance Black, Oscar-winning screenwriter
- Cheyenne Jackson, Actor and singer
- Judith Light, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress
- Jason Moore, Tony-nominated director for “Ave Q” and director of movies “Pitch Perfect” and “Sisters”
- Rory O’Malley, Tony-nominated actor in “Book of Mormon” and currently in “Hamilton”
- Lance Bass, Singer, dancer, actor, author and member of *NSYNC
- Jeremy Blacklow, Well-known DJ
- Michelle Clunie, Actor in “Queer as Folk”
- Bruce Cohen, Oscar-winning producer of “Milk”
- Robert Desiderio, Actor in “Cheers” and “The Sopranos”
- David France, Director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “How to Survive the Plague”
- David Grant, Television producer
- Jeremy Glazer, Film and stage actor
- Reichen Kuhl, Activist and winner of the “Amazing Race”
- Chip Arndt, Businessman and winner of the “Amazing Race”
- Omar Shariff, Jr., Actor and activist
- Robert Shrum, Television commentator/writer and professor
- Joy Tomchin, Producer of the film “How to Survive the Plague” and Former National Co-Chair of the LGBT Victory Fund
“Proposition 61 would harm low-income patients living with HIV because it has the potential to create barriers in access to medication,” says Diane Abbitt, First Co-Chair AIDS Project LA and Former President of Equality California. “I have fought too long and hard to end HIV/AIDS to allow a flawed policy like Prop 61 to pass.”
The independent, non-partisan Legislative Analyst (LAO) evaluated Prop. 61 and found that it could increase the state’s prescription drug costs. The LAO says, “The measure could endanger the supplemental rebates that (the State Department of Health Care Services) DHCS collects from drug manufacturers… In such circumstances, the measure could raise DHCS spending on prescription drugs.”
CalPERS, which provides retirement and health care benefits to California state government workers, raised red flags, citing, “decreased access to certain drugs for CalPERS members” and “increased administrative costs” under Prop. 61.
“There’s nothing in Prop. 61 guaranteeing a benefit to patients, consumers or taxpayers,” said Robin McGehee, Founder of Get Equal and Co-Chair of 2009 March on Washington. “In fact, independent experts warn that Prop. 61 could lead to the state paying higher costs for drugs, not lower and reduced access to medicines. It was an easy decision for me to oppose Prop. 61.”
Project Inform, a Bay Area group serving people living with and affected by HIV and hepatitis C, is officially neutral on the ballot measure but has raised concerns about the initiative saying, “The initiative does not include any provisions that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for consumers” and “This initiative could actually increase the price of drugs in a number of public programs, including (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) ADAP, Medi-Cal, the VA, and California’s prison system”
CONTROVERSIAL PROMOTER EXEMPTED HIS GROUP FROM PROP. 61’s PROVISIONS
Prop 61 is authored by Michael Weinstein and is being almost exclusively bankrolled by the organization he runs, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
In 2015, AHF brought in more than $1 billion in revenue, including generating $800 million from prescription drugs and pharmacy sales. AHF also runs a Medi-Cal managed care plan, or HMO, in California. Yet when they wrote Prop. 61, they exempted Medi-Cal managed care, including their own HMO plan, from having to comply with Prop. 61’s provisions. Can we really trust an initiative whose funders aren’t willing to comply with it themselves?
BACKGROUND ON PROP 61
Prop. 61 is a deceptive, deeply-flawed measure that would be bad for patients, harmful for veterans and expensive for taxpayers. It will increase prescription drug costs, jeopardize patient access to medicines and result in more bureaucracy, red tape and lawsuits. It also would take away a special prescription drug benefit promised to our veterans. More than 150 organizations oppose Prop. 61.