More than 13 percent of American adults — roughly the equivalent of 34 million people — know someone who couldn’t afford to pay for medical treatment and died as a result in the last five years, according to a new Gallup/West Health study published Tuesday.
Democrats, independents, people of color, younger Americans, and lower-income families were the most likely among those surveyed to know someone who has died due to a lack of healthcare.
The study also found that in the last 12 months, 22.9 percent of Americans or about 58 million adults, experienced “medication insecurity” or the inability to pay for prescribed medication, with women and Democrats seeing statistically significant increases in medication insecurity since January.
A total of 89 percent of respondents said U.S. prescription drug prices are “much higher” or “somewhat higher” than what consumers should be paying compared to just 11 percent of respondents who said prices are “about right” or lower than what consumers should be paying.
Additionally, 66 percent said the Trump administration has made “not much” or no progress at all to limit the rising cost of prescription drugs compared to 27 percent who said the administration has made a “fair amount” or a “great deal” of progress.
In Congress, the House of Representatives will vote soon on a bill that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for costly prescription drugs and the U.S. Senate is working on a bipartisan bill which would create an out of pocket maximum on prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries and require pharmaceutical companies to reimburse Medicare if drug prices rise faster than the inflation rate.
Not a single person in America, the richest country on Earth, should be able to say someone they know died because they couldn't afford treatment—let alone 34 MILLION people.
Medicare for All now. https://t.co/rYoQ503fcP
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 12, 2019
The Gallup survey is an indication that healthcare will continue to be a top issue for many Americans, raising the stakes in the ongoing intraparty debate on healthcare in the Democratic presidential primary. Among the top four candidates, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are advocating for a single-payer “Medicare for All” healthcare system similar to Canada, the UK, or Australia.
Meanwhile, Former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg favor a public option, which would mean creating a publicly funded alternative to private insurance that would compete on the existing insurance markets.
In the summer of 2017, the Trump administration and a Republican-led Congress attempted to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, but ultimately failed after public backlash and defections from key Republicans needed to pass the legislation in the Senate. The legislation would have made substantial cuts to Medicaid and ended cost-sharing subsidies for insurance premiums, and a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded it would have resulted in 23 million Americans losing their health insurance while reducing the deficit by $119 billion over 10 years.
While the Trump Administration did ultimately succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which incurred a fine on those who did not sign up for health insurance, the president ultimately decided to hold off on further healthcare legislation until after the 2020 election.