Voters split on ACA, but most say Rx drug costs are unreasonable

The majority of Americans—including Democrats, Republicans, and independents—support several policy changes to control the cost of prescription drugs, according to a September 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll. The poll found, however, that Americans remain divided on whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) is working well, with 47 percent reporting an unfavorable view and 44 percent reporting a favorable one.

Drug costs

According to a KFF press release, the poll, taken between September 14 and 20, 2016, found that 77 percent of Americans view drug costs as unreasonable, up from 72 percent in an August 2015 poll, and only 21 percent seeing drug costs as reasonable. Despite these findings, the poll found that 73 percent of Americans say paying for their drugs is easy and 26 percent say it is difficult to pay for their drugs. The poll also found that the majority of Americans favor the following policies:

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

The poll, however, also found that only 47 percent of Americans favor eliminating drug advertisements and 42 percent favor encouraging people to buy lower cost drugs by requiring them to pay a higher share if they choose a similar, higher cost drug.

Views of the ACA

Not surprisingly, the poll found that a Democrats largely support the ACA, Republicans largely oppose it, and independents lean unfavorable. When asked if the health insurance marketplace in their own state is working well, 48 percent said it was, while 43 percent said it was not. However, when asked if the marketplaces were working well nationally, the percent responding no grew to 49 percent.

The poll also asked an interesting question regarding the public’s awareness of the uninsured rate under the ACA. When asked if the uninsured rate was at an all-time high or low, only 26 percent knew it was at an all-time low, while 21 percent thought it was at an all-time high. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats and those who thought favorably of the ACA were aware of that the uninured rate was at an all-time low. Only 17 percent of Republicans and those who thought unfavorably of the ACA were aware that the uninsured rate was at an all-time low. Twenty-seven percent of independents were aware that it was at an all-time low.

Voting factors

Finally, in polling completed after the first presidential debate, 67 percent of voters say the candidate’s plan to address the future of the ACA is very important. The percentage of voters who say the candidate’s plan to address the following factors is important to their vote is as follows:

  • the cost of health insurance premiums (60 percent);
  • the cost of health insurance deductibles (55 percent);
  • prescription drug prices (51 percent);
  • the number of uninsured Americans (43 percent);
  • the ongoing opioid epidemic (43 percent); and
  • the Zika virus outbreak (26 percent).