Public Wants Next President, Congress to Tackle Drug Prices

Frustration with high prescription drug prices remains an issue that cuts across party lines. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents want the government to protect access to high-cost treatments for those with chronic conditions.

Consumers want the next president and Congress to rein in prescription drug prices—and to make high-cost drugs available to those with chronic conditions, according to the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

Making expensive drugs affordable to those with diseases like cancer or hepatitis C virus was a priority for three-fourths of the public (74%), and it ranked first among the agenda items for 2017. The general need to control drug prices ranked second (63%).

Consistent with earlier polls, the public’s frustration with drug costs cuts across party lines; majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents support government action to ensure access to drugs for the chronically ill. A majority of Democrats (75%) and independents (64%) also generally support government price controls on drugs, and nearly half (49%) of Republicans do, as well.

A divided electorate will vote in less than 2 weeks for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, and the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) depends on the outcome. Clinton seeks to make adjustments to the ACA to fix what’s not working, while Trump wants to scrap the law, although his path for replacing it is not clear.

While the ACA has received more attention in recent days, overall it is not top of mind as voters head to the polls. For starters, healthcare generally ranks way behind others factors that will drive voting decisions. Democrats are more motivated by the qualities of the candidates, the economy and jobs, foreign policy, and social issues; Republican and independents are more motivated by the economy and jobs, the candidates’ qualities, foreign policy, and immigration.

However, it’s worth noting that the poll was taken October 12-18, 2016, before the news from HHS that the average premium increase for a benchmark silver plan would increase 25% on the exchanges. While only a little more than 10 million people obtain coverage this way, the news has attracted considerable attention in the waning days of the campaign.

After drug costs, top healthcare priorities for voters are making sure health plans have adequate hospital and physician networks (57%), and protecting consumers for surprise medical bills when they visit an in-network hospital, but see an out-of-network doctor (54%).

In general, Democratic and independent voters are more sensitive to the consumer-driven priorities in the poll. Among Republicans, 60% will want to repeal the ACA; only 37% support this overall.

The poll found the public is deeply divided on how to proceed on healthcare. Among Trump voters, 73% want to repeal it and 12% want to scale it back; among Clinton voters, 48% want to expand it and 29% want to leave it intact.