According to a new study by West Health and Gallup, nearly 9 in 10 (88%) US adults support the federal government directly negotiating the price of a treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a drug manufacturer upon its availability due to concerns regarding raised drug prices.1

Furthermore, based on political demographics, Democrats (91%), independents (87%) and Republicans (89%) close to equally support this intervention at the federal level.1

The study is a part of ongoing research by West Health and Gallup on the rising cost of health care in the United States. This topic is of specific interest to West Health, which is a family of nonprofit organizations focused on lowering health care costs for seniors and investigating the rising costs of health care in the country.1

In the study, 1016 US adults, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, were surveyed on their concern over increasing drug prices in response to COVID-19; concern over rising costs of prescription drugs, insurance, and health care due to the pandemic; support for government negotiation of COVID-19 treatment prices with drug manufacturers; and evaluation of the US response to COVID-19 relative to health care expenditures.

A majority of adults were very (55%) or somewhat (33%) concerned that the pharmaceutical industry would raise drug prices due to the high national need for a COVID-19 treatment. This concern is mirrored in fears regarding the general cost of care rising, with 84% of respondents reporting they were very or somewhat concerned this will occur. Furthermore, 79% are very or somewhat concerned their health insurance premiums will go up in response to the pandemic as well.1

Although concerns regarding the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic vary across different demographics, most US adults, regardless of gender, race, income, or political identity, believe drug prices will rise as a result of the pandemic.1

However, concern differs in regard to rising insurance premiums and health care costs. Some key demographic differences include:1
 
  • Fifty-seven percent of women are very concerned about rising drug prices compared with 52% of men.
  • Forty-eight percent of women are very concerned about the general cost of care rising compared with 33% of men.
  • Fifty percent of nonwhites are very concerned about the general cost of care rising compared with 36% of whites.
  • Forty-six percent of women are very concerned about rising insurance premiums compared with 37% of men.
  • Forty-seven percent of nonwhites are very concerned about rising insurance premiums compared with 38% of whites.
  • Sixty-six percent of Democrats are very concerned about rising drug prices, whereas 52% independents and 49% Republicans are very concerned.
  • Forty-nine percent of households making less than $40,000 a year are very concerned about rising insurance premiums, compared with 37% of those making between $40,000 and $100,000. However, concern rises to 41% among those making more than $100,000 a year.

"Concerns loom large that when the pandemic is all over, Big Pharma and insurance companies will revert to old patterns and behaviors and continue to squeeze Americans with ever-higher drug prices and insurance premiums," said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, in a press release. "If history is any guide, these concerns are well-founded, which is why promises to rein in prices are not enough. We need to retool our health care system and enact smart legislation now."2

Furthermore, the survey showed that US adults do not view the US response to COVID-19 positively, with 57% reporting they view the response relative to how much the US spends on health care as either fair or poor. In contrast, 23% of respondents rate the country’s response as very good or excellent and another 20% as good.1

Such perceptions also change based on demographics such as education and income. For example, 72% of respondents with postgraduate degrees said the US response to the pandemic was fair or poor, whereas only 49% of those with an education at the high school level or less reported the same response. Furthermore, variations also occurred among political demographics, with 84% of Democrats saying the response was fair or poor and only 28% of Republicans giving that same evaluation.1

“Americans are clearly worried about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic well beyond being exposed to or spreading the disease,” said Dan Witters, Gallup senior researcher, in a press release. “Still, their misgivings regarding pharmaceutical companies and general anxieties regarding the cost of care are tempered by a clear, bipartisan call to policymakers to get involved to ensure that the public will be able to afford a treatment for COVID-19.”2

REFERENCES
  1. Gallup. Nine in 10 Concerned About Rising Drug Costs Due to COVID-19. Gallup website. news.gallup.com/poll/312641/nine-concerned-rising-drug-costs-due-covid.aspx. Published June 18, 2020. Accessed June 18, 2020..
  2. 9 in 10 Americans concerned pharma will use COVID-19 pandemic to raise drug prices [news release]. WASHINGTON, D.C. and SAN DIEGO, CA: West Health Institute; June 18, 2020. eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-06/whi-9i1061720.php. Accessed June 18, 2020.