Nearly half of sick people report difficulty coughing up money for prescriptions

Slightly over half of Americans reported taking a prescription drug, and while most are able to afford them at least somewhat easily, about a quarter have a difficult time finding the money to pay for them. The number jumps for those in poor health or taking at least four drugs. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) August Health Tracking Poll revealed strong public support for policy actions to lower prescription drug costs. The poll also tracked public opinion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), finding that the public remains divided and mostly unchanged from other recent reporting.

Prescription drug use

Over half of those polled reported taking a prescription drug (54 percent), with over a third of those taking four or more different drugs (37 percent of those taking drugs). Although 7 in 10 said that their drugs are very or somewhat easy to afford, a third of those with household incomes below $40,000 said that affording prescriptions is difficult. A quarter of those taking prescriptions reported that in the past year, either they or a family member have not filled a prescription due to cost, while 19 percent said they either skipped doses or cut pills in half. Those in fair or poor health, or taking 4 or more prescription drugs, are quite a bit more likely than healthier people to say affording medication is difficult. Half of those taking medicines have asked for generic drugs, and 78 percent thought that generic and brand-name drugs were about the same quality.

Lowering drug costs

Nearly three-fourths of the public views prescription drug costs as unreasonable, including 66 percent of those not currently taking prescription drugs. The poll presented several policy options for reducing drug costs, which were well-received. The highest rated option was requiring drug companies to publicly disclose how they set their drug prices, with 86 percent in favor. Closely following was the option of allowing the government to negotiate lower prices for drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, at 83 percent support. Although not quite as popular, many supported limiting the amounts companies could charge for drugs for illnesses such as hepatitis or cancer (76 percent) and allowing Americans to buy drugs imported from Canada (72 percent). Less than half supported requiring patients to pay a higher share if they chose a similar, higher cost drug as opposed to a cheaper treatment.


About 44 percent have a favorable view of the ACA, with 41 percent unfavorable. According to the report, the views continue to diverge along party lines, with 76 percent of Democrats reporting a favorable view and 71 percent of Republicans reporting unfavorable. Independents are split, 46 percent unfavorable and 39 percent favorable. These opinions are consistent with past polls, as are opinions for the next steps for the ACA. Identical shares (28 percent) hope for expansion of the ACA and complete repeal of the law. A slightly smaller amount (22 percent) want Congress to continue implementing the law as is and 12 percent wish for the law to be scaled back.