Political Analysis of Health Care Ahead of President Trump’s Speech on Drug Pricing
Today, President Trump is set to deliver a major address on the high price of prescription drugs. The speech comes at a critical time for Congressional Republicans who failed to repeal and replace Obamacare as promised in 2017 and face challenging midterm elections in 2018.
Firehouse Strategies provides public affairs consulting for a wide variety of corporations, trade associations, non-profits and political organizations. In the health care sector, our clients include insurers, generic pharmaceuticals and pharmacy benefit managers. Ahead of the President’s upcoming address, we analyzed how health care will impact the 2018 midterms.
1) Health care likely to be the single biggest issue for voters in the 2018 elections
The Democratic Party is obsessed with Russia and Mueller. Republicans want to focus on tax reform. But health care will be more important to voters in 2018 than those issues.
- A Gallup survey last month showed Americans worry more about health care than any other issue.
- A recent Pew Research survey found the public ranks the cost of health care highest in the impact on their household finances.
- There is some evidence that health care is already motivating voters at the ballot box. An exit poll of the PA-18 special election last month conducted by PPP showed health care was a top issue.
Bottomline: To connect with voters, candidates will need to address health care.
2) For the first time in a decade, Obamacare is not a unifying issue for either party
In the last two mid-term elections, Republicans won big after pledging to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. But in 2017, Republicans failed to pass health care legislation. We entered 2018 with Republicans having repealed the individual mandate while Obamacare’s popularity grew. Now both parties lack unifying health care messages: Republicans disagree over repeal-and-replace legislation, and Democrats are divided over single-payer proposals.
- For the first time ever, a Gallup survey in April found that a majority of Americans said that they approved of the Affordable Care Act.
- A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that, among all voters, health care “is among the top issues” that voters want to hear about, but also that the issue “ranks much lower among Republican voters.”
Bottomline: “Repeal and replace” has outlived its usefulness as a Republican talking point.
3) Instead of Obamacare, lowering prescription drug prices is now the dominant issue
The Administration has taken some actions to lower drug prices, but meaningful legislation remains stalled in Congress. The President is addressing the issue because voters are concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs – and the influence that the manufacturers of those expensive drugs have over policymakers.
- Over half of Americans report currently taking at least one prescription medicine, and nearly one in four Americans report taking four or more.
- Despite public outcry, the prices for specialty prescription drugs are skyrocketing – Axios recently reported that “pharmaceutical companies have hiked the prices of hundreds of drugs at rates that significantly outstrip inflation.”
- A survey Firehouse Strategies conducted with the data analytics firm 0ptimus in February found that 65% of likely midterm voters in swing states blamed name brand pharmaceuticals for the high price of drugs, while only 31% blamed insurers and 3% blamed generic pharmaceuticals.
- A survey last month found 72 percent of Americans said drug companies had too much influence in Washington – more than Wall Street, the NRA, and other health care special interests. (The American people may not be wrong: The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent a record $9.96 million on federal lobbying in the first three months of this year.)
- A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released this week found that “bringing down Rx drug costs” was the most important health care issue for Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike.
Bottomline: Candidates can win with voters by promising to fight PhRMA’s influence in the swamp. Expect more politicians and candidates to embrace policies to lower prescription drug prices and hold drug manufacturers accountable for big price hikes.
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