Older Americans Want Government Involvement in Drug Costs

Seventy-eight percent of older Americans support drug cost negotiation in Medicare.

With the cost of prescription drugs continuing to grow to unmanageable levels, including drugs that treat chronic conditions, Americans are calling for a solution. A new poll conducted by AARP suggests that older Americans support government officials intervening and reducing drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

These findings were found to be true among all Americans included in the Power of the 50-Plus Voter poll, regardless of who they voted for in the election, according to the press release. Included in the study were 650 adults aged 50 and older who voted in the most recent presidential election.

The authors discovered that 76% of participants felt prescription drug prices were the result of drug company monopolists or lobbyist deals, including 74% of Trump voters.

President Trump has supported negotiating drug costs for Medicare to lower prices and save taxpayer money. Of the participants, 78% supported the initiative, while 67% of Trump voters believed negotiating would accomplish lower costs, demonstrating that a large majority of older American voters support negotiation.

Approximately 96% of Democrats reported they would be more favorable to President Trump if he allowed drug negotiations in Medicare, and 94% said they would be more favorable to the president if he reduced prescription drug costs, regardless of the method, according to the press release.

These findings are consistent with prior AARP research, according to the press release. In a previously conducted survey of 2000 adults aged 50 and older, researchers discovered that 81% of participants felt drug costs were too high. The investigators also found that nearly 9 out of 10 participants felt that their elected officials should tackle the issue to reduce costs.

Increasing government involvement in drug costs may result in lower out-of-pocket spending for Medicare beneficiaries, which also been supported by Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other lawmakers.

“The public is making it increasingly clear that profiteering by drug companies at the expense of Americans is unacceptable,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president. “People are worried about high drug prices, and many are struggling because they can’t afford their medications.”

High drug costs may affect older individuals’ access to treatment, especially for those on a fixed income. Older Americans are more likely to be affected by high out-of-pocket spending because they are more likely to develop chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Even with Medicare Part D insurance, individuals may face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs each month.

“And patients are not the only ones being affected,” said Leigh Purvis, director of health services research at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “Expensive prescription drugs will eventually affect all Americans in some way. Those with health coverage will pay higher health insurance premiums, deductibles or cost sharing. Higher prescription drug spending also increases costs for taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid; this translates into higher taxes, cuts to public programs or both.”

Many studies have found that Americans pay more for prescription drugs than other countries. One study discovered that the United States, on average, paid $292 for a 30-day supply of rivaroxaban (Xarelto), which treats or prevents blood clots, while South Africa only paid $48 for the drug.

These findings suggest that implementing a novel strategy to negotiate drug costs may be largely supported by older Americans.

“We believe that the secretary of Health and Human Services should have the authority to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of millions of Medicare beneficiaries,” Purvis concluded. “In addition, we believe that we should reduce barriers to global price competition by allowing for the safe importation of lower priced drugs. There is no reason for Americans to continue paying the highest prescription drug prices in the world."