TOLEDO, Ohio – Ginny McKillips thinks it's outrageous that she's forced to travel to Canada once every three months so she can afford all of her prescription medications.
McKillips, a loyal independent voter, says it's an issue that could sway her vote for president in November.
"If another country can help us, why can't our country do it?" she asked. She is among the hundreds of older adults from northern Ohio who make routine trips across the border to save hundreds of dollars.
For many of them, coming up with a plan to make prescription drugs more affordable is a bigger campaign issue than the economy or the war.
"I think there are a whole lot of citizens in the United States who would be prepared to support someone who comes up with a decent plan," said Loybelle Poole, a retired nurse who gets her medicine in Canada.
Health care costs will be the focus of Vice President Dick Cheney's campaign speech on Monday during a campaign event at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.
Among the topics Cheney is expected to talk about is limiting jury awards for medical malpractice.
It's the second time in just over two months that the Bush-Cheney team will be in the state to tout its health care proposals.
President Bush in May told a crowd of health care professionals in Youngstown about his goal of opening or expanding 1,200 health centers as an alternative to expensive visits to hospital emergency rooms.
The Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress, though, oppose legalizing imports of drugs from other countries, including Canada, where government price controls lower the costs.
The House last week approved a measure that would prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from spending money to enforce its prohibition on imports of FDA-approved drugs.
But it's unlikely the measure will remain when House and Senate lawmakers finalize the bill. Opponents say there's no guarantee that imported drugs are safe, and that the FDA can't verify that the drugs are not counterfeit.
Poole, who lives in Sandusky, said she doesn't worry about the quality of the medicine.
"Do they really think they're making a Canadian version of Lipitor that isn't as effective or safe?" she said. "I don't accept these excuses."
She has been invited by the Alliance for Retired Americans to speak about her struggles to find affordable drugs at a news conference during the Democratic Convention in Boston later this month.
"I highly resent that I have to travel hundreds of miles away from my home, out of my country, to buy affordable medicine," said Poole, 77. "I don't see anyone doing anything constructive about it.
"Somehow they need to control these prices," she said.
McKillips, 69, from Vickery, estimates she saves about $2,600 a year by crossing the border, which is about an hour's drive north of Toledo.
She needs inhalers, blood pressure pills and allergy medications. Her cost for a three-month supply would be three times as high in the U.S.
"I had moved in with my daughter at one time because I couldn't afford it," she said. "I thought, 'I don't need it,' and I ended up in the hospital because my blood pressure shot up. That was scary."
She takes a bus that leaves from a senior center in Sandusky.
May McClure, interim director of the Erie County Senior Center, said the buses are always full. She said it would be wise for Bush and Democrat John Kerry to address the issue.
"It matters to people a lot," she said. "I think people, especially seniors, will be looking at this issue and who has a plan to deal with this problem."
There are several other groups that organize bus trips to Canada.
Toledo-based Blue Lakes Charters and Tours has been offering day trips to a Canada pharmacy for four years. It briefly stopped the $15 trips in the summer but decided to resume the route because of demand.
"The requests were coming in right and left," said Kathy Kranz, a company employee.
Her father gets his cholesterol medication in Canada and saves $80 each month. "You can go out to eat and play a couple rounds of golf on that savings," she said.