THURSDAY, Nov. 5, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Most Americans now support aggressive regulation to keep health care costs in check -- including price caps on drugs, medical devices and payments to doctors and hospitals, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll has found.
Nearly three of every four Americans (73 percent) want price controls placed on manufacturers of drugs and medical devices, the poll revealed. That's up from 64 percent who favored such controls in a 2014 poll.
A majority also said they'd favor importing cheaper drugs from other countries and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
"Most people want to see a lot of different actions taken to contain health care costs, including government price controls of providers, drugs and devices, and two controversial actions which are currently prohibited -- allowing the importation of drugs from other countries and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman emeritus of The Harris Poll.
Taylor said public opinion likely has been influenced by recent news of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the drug maker that sparked outrage when it tried to hike the cost of the generic anti-infection drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent -- from $13.50 to $750 per pill.
On Wednesday, a Senate committee began an investigation into huge drug price hikes by Turing and three other pharmaceutical companies, the Associated Press reported.
"Every new headline about big drug prices increases the likelihood that Washington will revisit the issues of drug importation and Medicare negotiating drug prices -- policies fiercely opposed by the industry but strongly favored by the public," Taylor said.
Pharmaceutical companies received the lion's share of blame for the cost of health care, with 65 percent of people blaming them "a lot," the poll found.
About 62 percent put significant blame on insurance companies, and 53 percent put substantial blame on the health care system as a whole.
Only 36 percent put a lot of blame on the Affordable Care Act for health care prices, but responses differed widely based on political party. About 65 percent of Republicans blame the Affordable Care Act (ACA), making the federal health care reform law their top target. Just 13 percent of Democrats blame the ACA, sometimes called Obamacare.
"While many people have seen, heard or read recent reports about large drug prices, and most people think drug companies are to blame for the high cost of care, they also believe that there is a lot of blame to be shared," Taylor said. "The system as a whole, the way providers are paid, doctors, hospitals, and the Affordable Care Act are all seen to be partly responsible."
Regarding specific proposals for containing the cost of care, the poll found that:
- 73 percent support price controls on drug and device manufacturers.
- 70 percent would like price controls placed on hospitals.
- 66 percent want to authorize Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
- 63 percent support price controls on payments to doctors.
- 56 percent want to be able to import less expensive drugs from other countries.
Ron Pollack is founding executive director of Families USA, a national health care consumers advocacy group. He said the poll "really confirms the two groups that most consumers are concerned about are pharmaceutical companies and insurers.
"Insurers in years past were often considered the group that people were most worried about and felt badly about. But, it's clear that given the big price tags for medicine, the pharmaceutical industry is becoming a big target for voters, irrespective of party affiliation," Pollack said.
About 71 percent of Democrats polled blame drug companies "a lot" for the high cost of health care, making the industry their main culprit. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans put significant blame on drug companies, their second choice right after the Affordable Care Act at 65 percent.
The drug industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America did not respond to repeated requests from HealthDay for comment on the poll results.
The poll asked whether people had heard of three recent reports involving big increases in drug prices. Most people said they had heard of them, and between 27 percent and 39 percent were either extremely or very familiar with them.
The HealthDay/Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between Oct. 14-16 among 2,072 adults. Figures for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.
To learn more about retail drug prices, visit the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
For more details on the poll, visit The Harris Poll.