79% of US Adults Want Government To Lower Drug Costs

 A doctor and patient look at a chart.
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A new survey conducted by The Balance on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) plan found that health care was the top concern among survey respondents, with 79% of those surveyed saying they think the government should lower prescription drug costs. 

Overall, health care policies were the top three most popular BBB proposals among survey respondents. Lowering the cost of prescription medication topped the list, while expanding Medicaid home care services for older adults and people with disabilities, and adding hearing aids to Medicare coverage, followed with 77% of those surveyed saying they somewhat or strongly support these two proposals. Only 7% of respondents said they somewhat or strongly oppose these measures. 

Key Takeaways

  • Among the group of U.S. adults surveyed by The Balance, 79% said they think the government should lower prescription drug costs. 
  • Three out of the top 10 most popular BBB policies among those surveyed were related to health care.
  • Survey results showed large bipartisan support for health care proposals in the president’s Build Back Better plan.

Strong Support for Lower Drug Costs and Health Insurance Premiums

Health care costs are rising in the U.S., and are estimated to increase 5.4% each year through 2028. People in the U.S. spend nearly $1,400 on prescription and over-the-counter drugs per capita per year, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); that’s more than any other OECD country. And another 2019 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that 30% of U.S. adults said they had not taken their medication as prescribed in the past year due to its cost.

Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency physician and board member of Doctors for America, told The Balance in a phone interview that he has seen countless cases of patients who end up in the ER because they cannot afford prescription-drug treatments.  

“You prescribe them a medicine, they are unable to afford it, they just wind up back where they started in the emergency department again, instead of being able to take care of something that would be simple on an outpatient basis,” Dark said. 

Of those surveyed, more than half (57%) were familiar with Medicare (a federal health insurance program for those 65 and older, and younger people with disabilities) and just less than half (48%) were familiar with Medicaid, a federal program that provides free or low-cost health insurance to families and individuals with lower incomes.

Biden’s BBB plan aims to lower prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for high-cost prescription medications covered by Medicare Part D (an optional Medicare benefit that helps pay for prescription drug costs) and Medicare Part B (which covers outpatient and medical services).

Dark said allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices “is one of the best ways” to lower the cost of prescription medication. 

The BBB plan proposes putting a $2,000 limit on out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs for older adults and people with disabilities who are covered under Medicare Part D. There are millions of people covered under Medicare Part D who pay over $6,000 in cost-sharing for their medication, according to The White House’s Build Back Better framework.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by The Balance said they support lowering insurance premiums for those who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 temporarily expanded eligibility for premium tax credits that help lower monthly insurance premiums to families and individuals above 400% of the federal poverty line enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace. However, this expanded tax credit (which also allows the option for advance payments) is set to expire at the end of 2022. 

“When this happens, people’s premiums are going to jump back up if we don’t keep that funding going,” Dark said.

Strong Bipartisan Support for Making Health Care More Affordable

Over one-third (36%) of survey respondents identified their political affiliation as conservative, while nearly one-fourth (23%) said they are liberal. The rest consider themselves independent, with more leaning conservative (24%) than liberal (16%).

Despite these political affiliations, survey results showed large bipartisan support among respondents for the health care proposals in the BBB plan.

As the three most popular policies in the survey, these health care policies had the most political agreement. The difference between the answers of conservative and liberal respondents was less than 10 percentage points for all three policies. 

Lowering prescription drug costs received 77% support from respondents who identified as conservative or independent leaning conservative, and 81% support from those who identified as liberal or independent leaning liberal.

The same groups of respondents showed bipartisan support for expanding Medicaid home care services to older adults and people with disabilities (76% conservative vs. 79% liberal) and adding hearing aids to Medicare coverage (74% conservative vs. 81% liberal). Hearing aids can cost between $4,000 and $5,000 and are not currently covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, so this policy would help people save a lot of money on those devices.

Health Care Among ‘Most Important’ Issues for Every Generation

Health care was not only the top issue for survey respondents overall, it was also the only issue that was in the top three most important for every generation. Just over one-fourth of Boomers and older adults (the oldest generation surveyed) and Gen X (ages 42 to 57) said health care was the issue that was most important to them; 23% of Millennials (ages 26 to 41) said the same. Though only 17% of Gen Z (ages 18 to 25) respondents rated health care as “most important,” it was still their top issue of concern. 

Methodology

The Balance surveyed 1,800 U.S. adults (aged 18 and up) from Feb. 8 to Feb. 13, 2022. The survey was fielded online via a self-administered questionnaire to an opt-in panel of respondents from a market research vendor. Respondents were required to be eligible to vote to qualify. Quotas were used to ensure national representation for generation, gender, race/ethnicity, and region using estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey as a benchmark.

Article Sources

  1. Health Affairs. "National Health Expenditure Projections, 2019–28: Expected Rebound In Prices Drives Rising Spending Growth."

  2. Organisation for Economic cooperation and Development. "Pharmaceutical Spending," Change second filed under "Perspectives" to "US dollars/capita."

  3. JAMA Network. "US Public’s Perspective on Prescription Drug Costs."

  4. The White House. "The Build Back Better Framework," Click on "Reduces prescription drug costs."

  5. IRS. "The Premium Tax Credit - The Basics."

  6. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The Hearing Aid Revolution: Cheaper and Easier to Get.”