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Lower Health Care Costs: Survey Shows Consumers Are Not Optimistic

Prior to the inauguration of President Biden, West Health and Gallup conducted a survey to better understand how Americans feel about the state of health care and the new administration’s promises of reform, but results show that most Americans are not optimistic.

The nationally representative survey comprised 3100 US adults, interviewed between December 15, 2020 and January 3, 2021, and included general questions about the direction the country is headed, levels of optimism vs pessimism regarding policy changes, and ranking the priority of issues the administration plans to tackle.

Survey data shows that only 28% of respondents believe the efforts made by the US government to lower costs of health care will be successful, compared with 49% who are openly pessimistic. Twenty-two percent of respondents had no opinion one way or another.

In the first month of 2021, prices rose an average of 4.8% for more than 500 drugs.

“Unfortunately, the only direction prices for health care and prescription drugs has gone is up,” said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer of West Health, a nonprofit dedicated to issues related to aging and lowering health care costs, in a statement. “Years of high prices from drug companies and broken promises from politicians to rein them in have understandably made people skeptical.”

Rising drug costs also bring a myriad of other concerns. More than 25% of survey respondents reported that a member of their household did not pursue care due to cost in the last year. Similarly, 6% reported knowing someone who has died in the last 5 years because treatment was too expensive. Another 40% said they are but one negative health event away from filing for bankruptcy.

Regarding the pandemic, 27% believed management of COVID-19 is headed in the right direction, compared to other issues like the economy (23%), immigration reform (18%), and climate change (15%). Only 8% of those survey believe that the management of health care costs is going the right way.

When it comes to lowering costs in health care, those surveyed listed lowering insurance premiums (70%), cutting drug prices (66%), and reducing the uninsured rate (63%) as what should be the Biden administration’s top priorities in the first 100 days. Expanding care for older adults (58%) and childcare for working parents (55%) were the next highest reported.

Eighty percent of respondents felt that health care costs will only continue to increase in the coming years.

“Harnessing the rising costs of health care and prescription drugs are more important than ever to the American public,” said Dan Witters, Gallup senior researcher. “And even as the federal government focuses on the pandemic response, dovetailing those efforts with alleviating the cost of care would certainly be expected to pay dividends with public opinion.” —Edan Stanley

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