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A comprehensive KFF Health Tracking Poll has delved into this changing landscape, unearthing several intriguing insights.

Sep 20, 2023 By Nancy Miller

There has been a notable shift in public sentiment towards prescription weight-loss drugs. According to KFF Health poll, nearly half (45%) of respondents expressed some level of interest in exploring prescription weight loss drugs as a means to lose weight. This is noteworthy because, among these respondents, many were not necessarily looking to undergo a drastic weight loss journey. A significant portion simply wanted to shed a few pounds.

What Has Piqued This Growing Interest in Weight-loss Drugs?

There seems to be a heightened curiosity stemming from a new drug category that has entered the spotlight. Initially designed and approved for the treatment of diabetes, these medications have been making headlines for their ancillary potential in assisting weight loss. The interest becomes even more pronounced when narrowing down to the cohort actively trying to lose weight: six out of ten individuals (or 59%) have expressed a desire to test such weight loss drugs. Moreover, even among those aiming to lose a mere 10 pounds or less, half (51%) are keen on this pharmaceutical route.

However, enthusiasm dwindles when potential challenges or setbacks are introduced. The study highlighted several deterrents that significantly reduced the interest in these drugs. For instance, the financial aspect played a pivotal role. If these best weight loss drugs were not to be covered by an individual's insurance, only a meager 16% remained interested. Equally, if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had greenlighted the drug for a purpose other than weight loss, the same percentage (16%) would still consider it. Furthermore, the sustainability of the drug's effect raised concerns. A near-identical portion (14%) said they would remain inclined towards the medicine, even if there was a possibility they might regain the weight once they discontinued its use.

Public Sentiment on Insurance Coverage for Weight-Loss Drugs and Awareness of Medicare Provisions

In healthcare and medication affordability, public perceptions provide valuable insight. The latest findings on how people view the coverage of weight-loss drugs by insurers and their awareness of recent legislation related to Medicare drug prices shed light on these areas.

Should Insurers Cover the Cost of Weight-Loss Drugs?

Most respondents, accounting for 80%, agree that insurance companies should bear the cost of weight-loss drugs, but with a condition. They believe coverage should be granted for adults who have received a medical diagnosis as being overweight or obese. This suggests a significant inclination towards supporting those with pressing medical needs to address their weight.

However, when broadened to encompass any individual desiring weight loss, regardless of their medical status, the numbers drop slightly but remain significant. Over half (53%) of the respondents opined that insurance should cover the cost of these best weight loss drugs for anyone who wishes to lose weight.

Another exciting aspect of this poll is how the public feels about potential financial implications on their insurance plans. Exactly half of the respondents (50%) expressed that they would be alright with their insurance providers covering the cost of weight-loss drugs even if it might increase their monthly insurance premiums.

Awareness of the Inflation Reduction Act's Provisions on Medicare Drug Prices

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Biden roughly a year ago, aimed to bring about significant changes, particularly in the realm of prescription drug costs in Medicare. However, a subsequent review of public awareness about its provisions paints a rather dim picture.

For starters, only a quarter of the public (25%) knows that the act mandates the federal government to negotiate specific drug prices for individuals under Medicare. Similarly, the same percentage knows the act's move to cap insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

Furthermore, a slightly lower 24% of respondents know about the act placing an annual limit on what Medicare enrollees need to shell out from their pockets for drugs. Alarmingly, a paltry 10% are aware of the provision that penalizes pharmaceutical companies if they hike Medicare drug prices at a pace that surpasses the inflation rate.

However, delving deeper into demographics provides a silver lining. Senior citizens aged 65 and above – predominantly covered by Medicare – display a somewhat better awareness. For instance, 44% of these seniors know the provisions related to insulin price capping, and 34% know about the annual limits on out-of-pocket drug expenditures of injectable weight loss drug.

The poll further explored public sentiments about drug manufacturing companies and the prevailing drug prices, signifying the need for continuous efforts in public education and ensuring transparency in legislation and its benefits.

Key Findings Revealed

A detailed analysis conducted by public opinion researchers at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) aimed to gauge such sentiments, uncovering notable findings. Here's a comprehensive look at the revelations:

1. Affordability Concerns are Real and Widespread

A significant segment of adults, nearly three in 10 (28%), disclosed challenges affording prescription drugs. Diving deeper into the demographic details, it's striking that among individuals hailing from households with annual incomes below $40,000, the number is notably higher, with 40% expressing difficulties.

Moreover, the implications of these affordability issues have led to concerning outcomes. A comparable share of the adult population, which amounts to 31%, confessed that they had refrained from adhering to their prescribed medication routines over the past year. The primary reason cited for this deviation was the cost of the medications.

2. Perception of Factors Influencing Drug Prices

When it comes to dissecting the factors that potentially contribute to the escalating prices of prescription drugs, public sentiment is quite illuminating. A whopping eight in 10 adults, translating to 83%, perceive the profit margins of drug manufacturing companies as a significant contributor. Politics aside, 84% of Democrats, 89% of Republicans, and 78% of independents share this attitude.

Other factors are viewed differently. Over half of individuals (54%) think research and development expenditures affect drug prices. Meanwhile, at 45%, fewer consider marketing and advertising expenditures as significant influencers in this equation.

3. The Call for Increased Regulation

A striking observation from the survey is the growing clamor for stronger regulation over prescription drug prices. Nearly three-quarters, or 73% of respondents, believe the existing regulatory frameworks fall short. This sentiment reflects an increase from the 63% who felt the same way in May 2021.

Descending deeper into party lines, this belief isn't isolated to one political group. Two-thirds of Republicans (68%) share this viewpoint, marking an 11% increase from their stance in May 2021.

Survey Methodology and Background

The survey, meticulously crafted and analyzed by experts at KFF, was conducted over nine days, from July 11-19, 2023. Online and phone calls were used to reach 1,327 nationally representative U.S. people. To ensure diversity, interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

For the entire sample, the sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points. Due to the complexities and differences of smaller groups, this margin may be more significant for some subgroups.

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