The biggest battle against the soaring drug costs for seniors is taking place in Los Angeles Koreatown ahead of the Nov. 8 election, as advertisements to promote Proposition 61 is running rampant across the city.
Nearly $140 million has been spent to promote Prop 61, designed keep drug prices in California affordable, to educate the voters about its cause.
Prop 61 requires the state of California to lower the price of prescription drugs to the same cost it is provided for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Since the initiative has been proposed, it has sparked a strong opposition from the drug manufacturers.
Regardless, the likes of nursing organizations and foundations advocating for sexually transmitted diseases have been spearheading the support for Prop 61, suggesting that it would help mid to low-income households.
From the other side, large drug manufacturers have already spent $130 million to launch a campaign to encourage voters to oppose Prop 61.
To counter the heavily funded opposing movement, supporters of Prop 61 are utilizing newspapers, websites and social media to promote their cause. In Koreatown, it is now common to see billboards and newspaper ads supporting Prop 61. It is one of the rare cases in which a ballot proposition was promoted in Korean.
“It was fascinating to see ads in Korean in newspapers and also on Facebook as my latest concern has been the cost of my parents’ medication,” said a 44-year-old L.A. resident Yeon-taek kim. “I’m definitely going to vote on Prop 61.”
However, the ads opposing Prop 61 heavily outweighs those that are supporting it.
“The opinions on the proposition seem largely polarized between the progressive and the conservative,” said 39-year-old Hyeon-sun Yoo, who works in Santa Barbara. “I can feel the desperation, seeing how they’re even targeting Korean-American voters.”
Meanwhile, community organizations in Koreatown are staying relatively silent over Prop 61. Korean American Federation of L.A. has already mentioned that it plans to remain neutral, while the Korean American Medical Association and Korean American Graduate Medical Association also have not taken a stance.
The main reason behind the reluctance of Korean-American organizations stems from the concern over getting involved in a political controversy.
“I do wonder if the organizations are being too passive as their primary role is to reflect the opinion of common Korean-Americans, including the seniors who could benefit from Prop 61,” said one organization’s official. “I would’ve liked it more if there were at least some seminars or hearings to educate people about the issue.”
As of now, 51 percent of California’s voters support Prop 61, while 24 percent oppose it with 25 percent declaring that they are still undecided, according to a survey conducted by Politico.
By Brian Choi