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Coronavirus: Most Americans believe government should regulate drug prices for COVID care

Written by Diane Archer

With the coronavirus pandemic, the dangers of rationing care based on ability to pay are all too clear. Financial barriers that deter people from getting COVID-19 care not only endanger their health, but they expose everyone else to heightened risk. A large majority of Americans want Congress to step in and regulate prescription drug prices for COVID-19 care.

A new West Health Gallup poll suggests that Americans have little faith that the pandemic will lead Congress to address high health care costs. It finds that almost ninety percent of Americans are either somewhat or very concerned that drugmakers will use the pandemic to justify drug price hikes.

Democrats are more concerned than Republicans that pharmaceutical companies will raise prices. Half of Republicans are very concerned, while two in three Democrats are very concerned. Most people do not believe that President Trump has done anything to address skyrocketing drug prices.

Most noteworthy, nearly nine in ten Americans want the federal government to regulate drug prices for COVID-19 care. And, Republicans, virtually as much as Democrats, (89 percent v. 91 percent), support government price negotiation of COVID drug treatments. Americans across the political spectrum are justifiably worried about access to affordable care.

Nearly half of Americans recognize that the government’s response to the pandemic was either fair or poor. The Trump administration still could step in and assure treatments are affordable to all Americans. But, there is no evidence that it will.

Some states are stepping in to try to control drug prices because Congress has not acted. But, their reforms are limited and they likely will not apply to COVID-19 treatments. For example, some allow their residents to import drugs from Canada. Others are limiting people’s insulin costs. Still others are demanding that pharmaceutical companies justify price increases.

More generally, the poll found that nearly eight in ten Americans are concerned about ever-rising health insurance premiums. And, more than eight in ten are concerned about higher health care prices, because of the pandemic. Medicare for All would address these concerns and more, but it is not likely to be enacted even if the Democrats win the Senate and Biden is elected President this Fall. As of now, it is not even likely that Congress will pass legislation that will regulate hospital or prescription drug prices.

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