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Biden`s Medicare price negotiation push is broadly popular. But he`s not getting much credit
Sep 15

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) __ President Joe Biden is trumpeting Medicare`s new powers to negotiate directly with drugmakers on the cost of prescription medications __ but a poll shows that any immediate political boost that Biden gets for enacting the overwhelmingly popular policy may be limited.

Three-quarters of Americans, or 76%, favor allowing the federal health care program for the elderly to negotiate prices for certain prescription drugs. That includes strong majorities of Democrats (86%) and Republicans (66%), according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About one in five Americans are neutral on the issue, while 6% outright oppose it.

But the poll shows Biden`s approval rating, at 40%, is about where it`s been for the last year. Americans are split on how the Democratic president is handling the issue of prescription drug prices __ 48% approve, making it a relative strong point for him, but 50% disapprove.

Seven in 10 Democrats approve of how Biden is handling the issue of prescription drug prices, compared to about a third of independents and about a quarter of Republicans. Even so, Republicans are still much more likely to approve of how Biden is handling prescription drug prices than they are to approve of his job efforts overall (8%).

Even among the Americans who support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, approval of Biden's handling of the issue remains relatively tepid. A slim majority (55%) approve, but 43% disapprove.

Interviews with poll respondents suggest that from conservative-leaning to liberal voters, Americans want the federal government to be more aggressive on negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies in order to lower medication costs. The gap between those who support the new Medicare policy __ a long-sought goal of various presidents and lawmakers __ and those who approve of Biden`s handling of the issue also suggests the administration continues to struggle to connect the White House`s accomplishments to Biden`s personal popularity as he readies a reelection bid.

That challenge is even more critical because the core of Biden`s reelection pitch to voters is selling his legislative achievements and showing that he is a leader who has accomplished for Americans where other presidents had fallen short, such as giving Medicare negotiating powers and enacting a massive bipartisan infrastructure law.

Esperanza Baeza, a teacher`s assistant in Chicago, said she was recently prescribed medication that was prohibitively expensive, and she had to comparison shop before she found drugs that were relatively affordable. She said while she understood that presidents can`t fix all problems, she wondered whether Biden was doing enough on the issue of drug pricing.

Told about Medicare`s new authority to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, Baeza, a Democrat, responded, "That`s awesome.``

"I`m 55. I know pretty soon, I`m retiring," she said. "I would like to educate myself more on that and I`m hoping I don`t have to struggle with that once I retire."

The new price negotiations come from a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act, a package of Democratic priorities signed into law last year that focuses largely on climate and health care policies. The White House last month formally rolled out the first 10 drugs that Medicare will negotiate on, which include the blood thinner Eliquis and Jardiance, a diabetes treatment.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023

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