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Public opinion on the affordability of prescription drugs

Health Industry News • September 1, 2021 at 10:39 AM • Written by: Gabrielle Smith

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), half of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug, while about a fourth are taking four or more. Affording your prescriptions isn’t always easy, especially if you’re among the fourth with multiple medications. Twice as many people taking four or more prescriptions reported having difficulty affording their prescriptions compared to those only taking three or fewer medications.

In this article, we’ll go over the survey data from KFF to explore public opinion on prescription drug costs in America, as well as explain how health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) can help make your medication more affordable.

Who has trouble paying for their prescription drugs?

When it comes to paying for prescription drugs, affordability isn’t an issue for everyone. While KFF reports that nearly 80% of the American adults say that the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, 74% of the people actually buying prescription drugs say affording their medication is easy. So what about the remaining 36% of adults that do have trouble paying for their prescription drugs?

The people in this category are largely those who are paying for more than one prescription drug, are taking more expensive medications, and those who are in poorer health. The chart below breaks it all down:

Who has difficulty affording their prescription drugs_KFF

Does the cost of prescription drugs keep people from taking their medication?

While most people on prescription drugs are able to afford and take their medication regularly, the KFF survey finds that about 30% of respondents didn’t take their medications as prescribed at some point in the past year because of the cost.

While some simply don’t fill their prescription, others were able to purchase an over-the-counter drug as a replacement, while others cut pills in half or skipped a dose to make their prescriptions last a little longer.

About three in ten say they havent taken their medicine as prescribed due to costs_KFF

Why do prescription drugs cost so much?

If you’re among those spending hundreds of dollars each month on your medications, you’ve undoubtedly wondered why prescription drugs can be so expensive. The KFF survey asked adults across political parties their theories related to the cost of medications in America. Roughly eight in ten across partisans say profits made by pharmaceutical companies are a “major factor” in the price of prescription drugs.

In addition, another seven in ten say the cost of research and development is a major factor contributing to the price, while about half say that the cost of marketing and advertising is a major contributing factor to the cost of prescription drugs.

About eight in ten across parties say pharma profits are a major contributing factor_KFF

What can be done to make prescription drugs more affordable?

While lowering the cost of prescription drugs nationwide isn’t a feat that’s accomplished overnight, there are a variety of different courses of action that can be taken to help the process along. The largest percentage of survey respondents favor the government negotiating with drug companies to get a lower price on prescriptions that would apply to both Medicare and private insurance, as well as making it easier for generic drugs to come to market.

Other solutions include placing an annual limit on out-of-pocket drug costs for people with Medicare, allowing Americans to buy drugs imported from Canada, increasing taxes on drug companies, and more.

Most adults favor several actions to lower drug costs_KFF

How can a health reimbursement arrangement make prescription drugs more affordable?

While government healthcare reform and increased taxes on drug companies may work out to be good long-term solutions to lowering prescription drugs costs, discussions like these do little to help Americans right now who are still picking up expensive medications month-to-month.

That’s where HRAs come in. If your employer offers an HRA, then you can get tax-free reimbursements on a variety of qualifying medical expenses, including prescription and non-prescription drugs. You simply purchase your medications with your own money, submit the receipts to your employer for reimbursement, and if approved, you’ll be reimbursed up to your employer’s set monthly allowance amount.

Our customer data shows that prescription drugs are the number one medical expense HRA users get reimbursed aside from their individual insurance premiums.

Watch our 3-minute video to see all the things you can get reimbursed with an HRA


While prescription drugs vary in price, solutions are in the works to make them more affordable across the board. In the meantime, using your employer’s HRA is an excellent way to save money on your medical expenses, including prescriptions for you, your spouse, and your dependents.

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Gabrielle Smith