America’s attitude about the health insurance market hasn’t gotten much better over the last year and for obvious reasons. There’s definitely a feeling of trepidation about the Obamacare exchanges collapsing like dominoes and some of the big operators taking huge losses. But mostly people seem to have noticed that their premiums are not only not going down as originally promised, but instead are rising faster than ever. (Funny how that works, huh?) So who is the public blaming at this point? Prescription drug manufacturers have been in the news a lot lately, particularly after the debacle of The Most Evil Man In America. And yet a recent poll from Morning Consult shows that people are still more focused on the insurance companies themselves, along with the government.
Only 13 percent of Americans hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the last 10 years of rising health care costs, while 31 percent blame health insurance companies, and 25 percent blame the federal government, according to a Morning Consult poll released this month.
Outrage over rising drug costs has launched the issue to prominence in presidential campaigns and sparked a congressional investigation into drug companies that buy off-patent drugs and hike up their prices. Since the summer, the issue of drug prices has topped health care polls.
The most recent development, in which a few hedge funds have bought off-patent drugs that aren’t easy to manufacture and hiked up their prices, has captured Congressional attention. “It’s evil genius, is what it is,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), co-chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is leading the investigation into the prices of four drug companies. But she also noted that the investigation is looking at a “discreet area” of a much broader industry.
Prices are up across the board so it’s probably a subject where the public, by and large, isn’t drilling down to the details all that much. As the Morning Consult study notes, national spending on health care was roughly $1.9T in 2004, but ten years later it has risen to more than $3T. Those aren’t just budget numbers on a line in some congressional spreadsheet… that’s real money being spent by working people around the country and that’s the sort of thing they do pay attention to.
The only surprising figure in here for me was the relatively low number of folks who see the direct effect of government meddling as being less of a cost driver than the insurance companies themselves. 25% seems on the low end, but then again the media has done one heck of a job marketing Obamacare for the administration, so that may be dragging their numbers up a bit. Still, as we discussed on Monday, most people are still finding that it’s better to pay the Obamacare penalty than to sign up for the insurance. Tax time is coming round again soon and those penalties will be coming due. How is it that the same folks getting hammered by this tax aren’t showing a bit more indignation about it? It may not look like part of the essential “cost of health care” in America, but it’s a directly related check to write next April.
So what do you think? The cost of prescription drugs is definitely rising faster than most other sectors of this market. Part of that is the fallout from investment groups buying out smaller drug manufacturers’ patents and pushing the envelope on the profit side. Should that be a bigger piece of the national discussion than it currently is or is the government thumb on the scales still the primary driver for most of you?