Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly agree that skyrocketing prescription drug costs — not repealing Obamacare — should be the top healthcare priority for Congress and the president, something candidates seeking the White House in 2016 should consider when crafting campaign strategies, according to Politico
Republicans are "part of the huge bipartisan majorities that back strong government measures to make drugs affordable, including requiring drug makers to release information on how they set prices (86 percent), allowing Medicare to negotiate for drugs (83 percent), capping what companies can charge for drugs to treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases (76 percent) and importing drugs from Canada (72 percent)," the website reports, citing a study released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation
In an April Kaiser foundation poll
, 66 percent of Republicans wanted Washington to address the expensive and rising costs of drugs for chronically ill patients, while repealing Obamacare (60 percent) and its individual mandate (52 percent) came in as second- and third-tier priorities.
At the same time, the National Journal reported
that soaring drug prices "are shaping up to be one of the next frontiers for healthcare reform in this country," citing the findings of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that nearly half of Americans take at least one prescription drug.
"Other studies have put the number as high as 70 percent," according to the Journal. "More than 20 percent of Americans had taken three or more prescriptions in the last 30 days, the CDC said."
Participants in the most recent Kaiser poll said they’d like to make sure that "high-cost drugs for chronic conditions, such as HIV, hepatitis, mental illness and cancer, are affordable to those who need them, with three-quarters of the public (76 percent) saying this is a top priority."
Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institute as well as Mitt Romney’s former health policy adviser, tells Politico that Republicans, who have set their sights on scrapping Obamacare, "are more likely to talk about drug prices as evidence of Obamacare’s failure" rather than bifurcating the issue.
"Republicans will be talking about how do we replace the ACA (Affordable Care Act) architecture," said Chen.
There’s not universal agreement, however, about how much oxygen the candidates will expend on prescription drug prices in the run-up to 2016.
A public opinion expert at Harvard School of Public Health predicts it "is going to be very visible" and "people will be living in terror that they won’t be able to pay for this new expensive drug that they need."
But noted conservative pollster David Merritt suggests prescription drug costs will be more of a corollary issue.
"Specific to drug costs, I think it will be secondary," he said. "Healthcare as an issue is not going away. Obamacare is not going away. We’re still talking about life and death, but the fight will be around healthcare in general, with rising prescription drug costs as evidence of what’s wrong."
Hillary Clinton has said she supports "a greater role for the government in driving down drug prices" but has not offered any specifics.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a socialist who has long been a proponent of a single-payer healthcare system — in which the government funds healthcare for all Americans — has said he would like to see Medicare become an "active negotiator" in price-setting for prescription drugs, according to Politico.
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