Consumers are most concerned about health care costs among their kitchen table issues, above their ability to afford the utility bill, housing, food, or gas and transportation costs.
The October 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll finds 4 in 10 Americans finding it difficult to afford health care, including 16% of people earning $90,000 a year or more.
Underneath that worrying healthcare cost umbrella are the price of prescription drugs, which the majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans all agree need to be “limited” by government regulation. Ensuring that the public have affordable access to high-cost drugs for chronic conditions like cancer, hepatitis C, HIV, and mental conditions is also a top priority for 77% of Americans (by party, 85% Democrats, 75% Independents, and 73% of Republicans).
The call for more regulation on putting a limit on prescription drug prices ranks higher than the ask for more regulation on ensuring that prescription drugs are safe to take or more oversight over drug companies’ statements in ads about side effects and the accuracy of claims.
2 in 3 in 4 consumers in the U.S. also believe that the pharma industry has “a lot” of influence over what doctors prescribe, with an equivalent percent of people believing that their own doctor is subject to “a lot” of influence from pharma companies in what they are prescribed.
Finally, fully 9 in 10 people favor requiring the FDA to review drug advertisements for accuracy and clarify before going public. This is true across all political parties: 89% of Democrats, 90% of Independents, and 90% of Republicans.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: In the midst of public debates on the fairness of the Cadillac Tax, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and sign-ups in the third year of the ACA Health Insurance Exchanges, the major theme coming out of the October 2015 KFF poll is about health care costs — and specifically, the price impact of prescription drugs that fall on consumers and their wallets.
The Health Care Priorities for the President and Congress slide, third graphic in this post, arrays the top issues that Americans prioritize for the Executive and Legislative branches of U.S. government. These are (1) ensuring access for people to high-cost (read: specialty) drugs and (2) regulation to lower Rx drug prices.
Further down the list at #4 is ensuring transparency about the prices of health care services and treatments, #5 protecting people from being charged high prices out-of-network, and #6 providing comparative information about health providers’ quality.
These responses illustrate that voters – across all party lines – now see themselves as health care consumers, with the responsibility for covering payment (say, in high-deductible health plans) and deciding across treatment options (in terms of price and quality).
As many people, about 50% of Americans, closely followed Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. and Cuba as the rising prices of prescription drugs in October 2015. Concerns about the price of prescription drugs is now a mainstream political issue beyond the Beltway, hospital and doctor’s offices, and pharmacy. It’s a conversation happening at Americans’ kitchen tables.