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Solution looms for drug woes

Solving Oregon's health care crisis starts with lowering the cost of prescription drugs. No one should have to choose between buying a tank of gas and buying their medications. But hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are faced with this prospect every day. It's time to do something about it.

Initiative 122 shatters the barriers to low-cost prescription drugs at no additional expense to taxpayers.

More than 750,000 legal Oregon residents - including children - don't have prescription drug coverage. That means one in five of us don't have enough health insurance to afford our meds.

In the long run, that means more trips to the hospital and more expensive treatments - and a bigger financial hit for the rest of us who then pay higher and higher premiums.

But there's a simple cure. Ballot initiative 122 will open up a great starter program that's already under way. It's called the Oregon Prescription Drug Program, and it saves people as much as 60 percent on their meds through drug discounts and rebates.

But in order to benefit from the current program, some pretty restrictive conditions first have to be met - things like age and income, for starters. Initiative 122 will completely wipe out those restrictions, and make low-cost meds available to uninsured Oregonians - and their kids - who could really use the help.

If you're reading this with a skeptical eye, there's plenty of proof that this program can deliver as promised and not at the hand of taxpayers' expense. The administrative expenses to run this low-cost program are already in place. By negotiating directly with big drug manufacturers and pharmacies, the program pays for itself through the savings realized from discounts and rebates.

Frankly, Oregon is doing something the feds should have done long ago.

122 is not a welfare program. It's a no-brainer solution to help thousands of Oregonians afford the medications they need to lead healthy lives.

It's time to come together around a program that takes advantage of a well-known secret that companies like Costco and WalMart have known for a long time: Put the power of bulk purchasing back in the hands of consumers.

Sign the petition to get Initiative 122 on the ballot. If you care about how we treat our kids or our seniors, you'll back this initiative. But even if all you care about is your own wallet, you want Initiative 122 on the ballot.

Jerry Cohen, a Lake Oswego resident, is Oregon state director of AARP and is a chief petitioner of Initiative 122. Find out more about the initiative at www.aarp.org/or.