Federal Drug Price Negotiation is Popular — Even Among Republicans

MHE Publication, MHE November 2021, Volume 31, Issue 11

Having CMS negotiate drug prices is a policy favored by President Joe Biden and many Democrats, and it is a prominent feature of H.R. 3, also known as the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

Having CMS negotiate drug prices is a policy favored by President Joe Biden and many Democrats, and it is a prominent feature of H.R. 3, also known as the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

But according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, a majority of people who identify as Republicans (76%) also favor the federal government negotiating drug prices with drug companies. Not surprisingly, the notion is even more popular among Democrats (91% in favor), with independents falling in between (85% in favor) the Republicans and Democrats. The poll was conducted from Sept. 23 to Oct. 4 and included just over 1,400 respondents.

Drugmakers and other groups are vigorously opposed to federal government negotiation of drug prices and are lobbying against H.R. 3 for a variety of reasons. One that is often voiced is that price negotiation would stifle innovation and the development of therapies to manage and cure disease. A large majority of the respondents to the Kaiser poll don’t have much stock in that argument.

They were asked which comes closer to their view “that even if U.S. prices were lower, drug companies would still make enough money to invest in the research needed to develop new drugs” or “drug companies need to charge high prices … to fund the innovative research necessary for developing new drugs.” Most (93%) picked the former, including 90% of Republicans, and only 6% picked the latter. Of course, the exact wording to questions like that can make a significant difference in how people respond.

Drugmakers and their allies who don’t want federal government negotiation of Medicare prices may take some solace in the attitude toward Biden and congressional Democrats revealed by the Kaiser survey. Less than half of the respondents indicated that they have confidence in either Biden (46%) or the Democrats (48%) to do the right thing on drug prices. But confidence was even lower in congressional Republicans, with only one-third (33%) believing they will do the right thing.