Friday, August 11, 2000

Henson opposes drug tax

Candidate joins call for repeal

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — Democratic state Senate candidate Jaimie Henson has signed on to a plan to eliminate Kentucky's 6 percent tax on prescription drugs dispensed by physicians and other health care providers.

        Mrs. Henson, who is running for Kenton County's 23rd District Senate seat, endorsed the plan Thursday at a joint appearance with Lt. Gov. Steve Henry at a park here.

        “The seniors and the cancer patients are already in situations that are already almost unbearable,” Mrs. Henson said. “And to pass through a tax on them to pay for other programs in the state is just unconscionable.”

        Mr. Henry, an orthopedic surgeon and potential candidate for governor in 2003, devised the plan to remove the tax. He said that would save Kentucky consumers about $17 million a year.

        “The tax is immoral and unfair,” Mr. Henry told the group of about 25 senior citizens seated at picnic tables.

        “Of only eight states having such a tax, we are tied for the highest rate with West Virginia. I want Kentucky medicine to be everything it should be for consumers at the lowest possible cost.”

        If she wins the Senate seat, Mrs. Henson said, she will co-sponsor the bill in the 2002 General Assembly.

        Most prescription drugs in Kentucky, including those purchased from a pharmacist, are not taxed.

        But drugs dispensed in doctor's offices, at nursing homes and under other special circumstances are taxed at 6 percent. The taxed medications are usually given through injections, including drugs to treat cancer, vaccines, local anesthetics and antibiotics.

        While the physician or provider is actually taxed, the amount of the tax is typically passed on to the consumer, Mr. Henry said.

        Millie Behler, 69, of Independence said many senior citizens she knows are on fixed-incomes and have a difficult time paying for the drugs they need.

        “Every little bit helps,” Mrs. Behler said.

        “People sometimes have to choose between buying food or medicine. This tax should be removed. We're taxed enough already.”

        Mr. Henry said Mrs. Henson's opponent — incumbent Republican Jack Westwood of Erlanger — “had an opportunity to get rid of this tax and he didn't take it.”

        Mr. Westwood was in Central Kentucky Thursday attending a campaign visit by Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney.

        He could not be reached to comment.


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