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Americans Lack Confidence in Legislation Being Passed to Address Prescription Drug Costs

Laura Joszt
Americans still believe prescription drug prices are a problem that need to be addressed, but a minority have confidence in the president and Congress to pass legislation addressing these costs, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
While prescription drug costs remain top of mind for a majority of Americans, a minority of the public believes the president and Congress will actually be able to do anything that will lead to Americans paying less for prescription drugs, according to findings of the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

In the poll from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 52% of respondents said passing legislation to bring down the price of prescription drugs should be a top priority for the president and Congress. The price of prescription drugs was a higher priority than passing an infrastructure bill, addressing the prescription painkiller epidemic, passing legislation to allow “Dreamers” to stay in the United States, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and passing funding for a border wall.

However, the public does not have much confidence in much being done regarding prescription drug costs. Only 39% of respondents said they were “very confident” or “somewhat confident” in President Donald Trump’s ability to deliver on his promise to bring down prescription drug costs. Both parties are being blamed equally, with 83% saying Republicans in Congress aren’t doing enough and 82% saying Democrats aren’t doing enough. Slightly less (73%) say President Trump and his administration are not doing enough.

“Large shares across partisans not only say that lawmakers from the opposite party are ‘not doing enough’ to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, but also say lawmakers from their own party are ‘not doing enough,’” wrote the authors of a report on the poll.

Unsurprisingly, there were party divisions. Members of each party trusted their own to do a better job at lowering prescription drug costs–78% of Republicans versus 84% of Democrats. Independents trust Democrats more than Republicans (38% versus 24%), but a large portion of independents don’t trust either party (32%).

Perhaps part of the reason the public believes little will be done is that Americans think pharmaceutical companies have too much influence in Washington, DC. Similar numbers of respondents believe pharmaceutical companies (72%), large businesses (76%), and Wall Street (69%) have “too much influence.” By comparison, much smaller numbers believe the National Rifle Association (52%), doctors groups (30%), and labor unions (26%) have “too much influence.”

The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll also gauged public opinion on a national health plan. Overall, few respondents (7%) said that a candidate’s position on a national health plan, in which all Americans get their insurance from a single government plan, would be the most important factor in how they vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

However, more than half (59%) of respondents said they favor a national health plan. Support for a national health plan increases to 75% if it is optional and people who currently have other coverage can keep it. Even among Republicans, support for an optional national health plan is as high as 64%, while support among Republicans is just 36% if the national health plan is mandatory.

A majority of Democrats and independents support the idea of a national health plan regardless if it is mandatory or not—although support is higher for the optional proposal.

“It is unclear how support would fare if these proposals became part of the larger public debate as previous KFF polling has found the public’s attitudes can be quite malleable,” acknowledged the authors.

References

Kirzinger A, Wu B, Brodie M. Kaiser Health Tracking Poll—March 2018: Views on prescription drug pricing and Medicare-for-all proposals. Kaiser Family Foundation. March 23, 2018. https://www.kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-march-2018-prescription-drug-pricing-medicare-for-all-proposals/. Accessed March 23, 2018.

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