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Poll Finds Nearly Three Quarters of Americans Say Prescription Drug Costs Are Unreasonable, and Most Blame Drug Makers Rather Than Insurers for the Problem

If Supreme Court’s King v. Burwell Decision Restricts Insurance Subsidies to Certain States, Most Say Congress Should Act to Ensure Residents of All States are Eligible, and a Majority in Potentially Affected States say Their State Should Act

Public’s Views on Affordable Care Act Are Divided and Unchanged: 42% Unfavorable and 39% Favorable

Nearly three quarters (73%) of the public view prescription drug costs as unreasonable, and far more blame pharmaceutical companies more than insurers for the high prices, finds the June Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

The new poll probes the public’s views and experiences on prescription drug costs in depth, building on the results of our April poll that identified high drug costs as the public’s top health care priority for the President and Congress.

About three-quarters (76%) of those who say costs are unreasonable say that it is more because pharmaceutical companies set the drug prices too high, while just 10 percent say it is more because the health insurance companies require people to pay too much of the cost for drugs. Another 10 percent volunteered that both are to blame.


Half of the public says they currently take prescription medicine. Of those, most (76%) say it is easy to afford their medicine, while one in five (21%) say it is difficult. A quarter (25%) of those currently taking prescription medicine report they or a family member have not filled a prescription in the past 12 months due to cost, and 18 percent report cutting pills in half or skipping doses.

The public cites drug company profits as the number one reason for the high cost of prescription drugs (picked by 77%), followed by the cost of medical research (64%), the cost of marketing and advertising (54%), and the cost of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies (49%).

A slim majority (53%) say there is not as much regulation limiting the price of prescription drugs as there should be, compared to 12 percent who say there is too much regulation, and nearly three in 10 (28%) who say it is about right.  Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say there is too much government regulation (19% compared to 8%), and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say there is not as much as there should be (59% compared to 42%).

Pluralities of the public say there is about the right amount of government regulation of drug safety (47%) and drug advertising (47%). Somewhat smaller shares say there is not as much government regulation as there should be of drug safety (39%) or advertisements (36%).

With the Supreme Court expected to rule by the end of the month in the King v. Burwell case challenging a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the public is still not focused on the case. Most say they have heard only a little (28%) or nothing at all (44%) about it. Relatively few say they have heard something (14%) or a lot (13%) about the case.

When asked how Congress should respond if the Court prohibits that financial assistance in federal marketplace states, more than six in 10 (63%) say Congress should pass a law to ensure people in all states are eligible for subsidies. Majorities of Democrats (80%) and independents (66%) favor Congressional action, while Republicans are divided with half (49%) saying Congress should not pass a law and somewhat fewer (38%) favoring action.


Among those in the potentially affected states, most (55%) say their state should act to create their own marketplace if necessary to assure their residents of continued financial assistance.

On the ACA overall, the poll finds the public remains closely divided, with 42 percent reporting an unfavorable view of the law and 39 percent reporting a favorable view, statistically unchanged from when we last asked the question in April.  That narrow gap is consistent with the split in recent months, as is the large partisan divide behind it.  Most Republicans continue to hold unfavorable views, most Democrats hold favorable ones, and independents fall somewhere in the middle.

The poll was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted from June 2-9, 2015 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,200 adults. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (480) and cell phone (720). The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on other subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.