Prescription drug costs are out of control

By Jill Zorn

pills-moneyPrescription drug costs are out of control and people are starting to notice.

  • The latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that 77% of people believe that prescription drugs costs are “unreasonable” up from 72% a year ago
  • A Politico – Harvard poll found 70% of those surveyed blamed prescription drug companies for the high cost of health care
  • A survey conducted by the Physicians Foundation found that 59% of the public feel that the cost of prescription drugs is the main reason that health care costs are continuing to rise

Why is this issue rising to the top of the list of health care cost concerns?

One reason is likely the wave of publicity surrounding outrageous price hikes, like the EpiPen scandal.

Another reason is that drug prices are rising much faster than other health care costs.  As one example, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that the average annual cost for MS medications was $16,000 in 2004 and today it is $78,000 – an increase of almost 400 percent.

But the most important reason is likely that more and more people find themselves with health insurance that requires them to pay a significant amount of money out-of-pocket for each service or prescription.  Most notably, coverage for medications, particularly for specialty drugs, is getting worse.  A typical insurance plan now only pays 50% of the cost of these more expensive medications.

The Physicians Foundation poll confirms that people are worried about affordability.  The survey found that 67% of people are concerned they will not be able to pay for medical treatment if they get sick or are injured.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey, difficulty affording medications is much more common among people in fair or poor health (42%) than people in good health (20%).

Something is wrong with this picture.  Health insurance is supposed to protect us from financial ruin if we get sick.  Yet people who have health problems are worried that they can’t afford to be sick.

As a first step toward fighting back against high costs, Universal Health Care Foundation is gathering stories that illustrate how people in our state are struggling to afford care.  If you are having trouble affording your medicines, we want to hear from you.  Please email your story to us at

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