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Prescription Drug Costs on the Public’s Mind – Reductions in the Uninsured Not So Much

By Clive Riddle, September 30, 2016

The just released current Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll finds that while the public continues to be deeply divided on the Affordable Care Act, they are fairly united in backing policy changes to rein in prescription drug costs. The level of bipartisan public support – powered by recent EpiPen pricing headlines among other Rx cost woes in the news -  would seem to offer a prescription paving the way for a rare event these days– legislation that has a chance of being enacted into law when the new Congress convenes next session.

There is widespread agreement on five policy points:

  1. 86% support requiring drug companies to release information to the public on how they set drug prices
  2. 82% favor allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on medications for people on Medicare
  3. 78% approve of limiting the amount drug companies can charge for high-cost drugs for illnesses like hepatitis or cancer
  4. 71% like allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs imported from Canada
  5. 66% want an independent group that oversees the pricing of prescription drugs

Here’s a graphic Kaiser Family Foundation provided regarding the poll results:

The survey finds that “a large majority (77%) perceive drug costs as unreasonable, while one in five (21%) say they are reasonable. The share who say drug costs are unreasonable is up somewhat from 72 percent a year ago in August 2015.”  The Survey also finds that “about half (55%) of the public report currently taking prescription drugs, and the vast majority (73%) of them say paying for their medications is easy; far fewer (26% of those taking prescription drugs, or 14% of the total population) say it is difficult to pay for their drugs.”

The September tracking poll continues to reflect the deep partisan divide in views on the ACA, which spill over to recognition of a significant drop in the level of the uninsured:

  • 47 percent have an unfavorable view of the ACA while 44 percent have a favorable one. 
  • 48% say the marketplace in their own state is working well, while 43 percent say it is not working well, but 49% say they are not working well nationally vs. 44% that say they are working well.
  • “When asked whether the uninsured rate is at an all-time low or all-time high, a quarter (26%) are aware that it is at an all-time low, while a fifth (21%) say that it is at an all-time high. Democrats and those with a favorable view of the health reform law are more likely to be aware of this; Republicans and those with an unfavorable view are less likely to be aware.”


With regard to the current level of the uninsured, HHS this week released a report indicating “the uninsured rate fell by around 40 percent for Americans in all income groups for 2010 through 2015, including individuals with incomes above 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).”
Here’s the levels of reduction in the rate of uninsured they found during this time period by income levels and age:

  • Less than 100% FPL: 39% reduction
  • 100-125% FPL: 48% reduction
  • 125-250% FPL: 41% reduction
  • 250-400% FPL: 37% reduction
  • 400% FPL and higher: 42% reduction
  • 18-25 year olds: 52% reduction
  • 26-34 year olds: 36% reduction
  • 35-54 year olds: 39% reduction
  • 55-64 year olds: 40% reduction

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