Drug Costs

Most Americans Find It “Easy” to Pay for Prescription Medications

April 4, 2019 2:14 pm

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has released a poll that explores Americans’ views regarding drug prices and health insurance costs. BIO’s findings reflect other surveys we’ve featured on this blog.


One interesting finding: nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents who currently are taking prescription drugs said it has been “easy” for them to afford their medications. This means that some Americans are worried about paying for their medications – and one anxious patient is one too many – but it also demonstrates that drug-pricing concerns aren’t a worry plaguing most American families.


Based on the poll results, Americans seem to be far more worried about health insurance costs. More than nine in 10 respondents said having prescription drug coverage is an important insurance benefit for them, but the costs of these benefits are rising. Among respondents who said they were dissatisfied with their health insurance plan, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) cited out-of-pocket costs like copays or deductibles, and nearly six in 10 (57 percent) cited lack of coverage for medical services, including prescription drugs, as the reason for their dissatisfaction.


So what do Americans want Congress to do? Focus on these out-of-pocket costs, of course.


Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) said the most important task for lawmakers is to lower the cost people pay out-of-pocket for their medications. No other response received a higher percentage of respondents. Indeed, less than one-third of voters said they want lawmakers to bring down the list price of drugs.


Still, if lawmakers do act, they should probably abandon most of the edicts currently on the table.


When it comes to bringing down prices, most Americans (39 percent – a plurality of respondents) said enhancing competition between brand-name and generic drugs is the best way to reduce prices. Only 17 percent of respondents, on the other hand, said government price controls are the best way to lower prices.


The survey results were based on responses from nearly 2,000 registered voters across the country who were contacted in late March. They reflect results from other recent polls. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from February, three-quarters of respondents who are currently taking prescription drugs said that affording their medicines is “easy.” For Americans who take between one and three medications, that number was 83 percent. For patients who take four or more drugs, it was still 62 percent.


That poll also demonstrated that Americans understand the benefits of innovation. Three-fifths of Kaiser’s respondents said medications developed over the last two decades have “made the lives of people in the United States better.”


Finally, as CNBC reported, Americans are skeptical of government-mandated drug pricing policies if they know they will harm this innovation. In the Kaiser survey, support for price negotiation dropped from 86 percent to just 31 percent if government price negotiations could “hurt research and development.” Support for price negotiation declined to 29 percent if it would result in diminished patient access, or Medicare not covering some prescription drugs. Those figures declined over the last decade – even with the enormous media focus that so recently has fanned the drug-pricing flames. A Kaiser poll from 10 years ago found about half of Americans would support increased price regulation if it harmed innovation.


Americans understand the trade-offs when it comes to drug pricing legislation and regulation. Now, will Washington?