Feb 23, 2023 - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: Costs top Americans' health concerns

What Americans say government efforts should prioritize when it comes to U.S. public health
Data: Axios-Ipsos poll; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Americans say they're worried about opioids and gun violence, but what they really want the government to tackle is rising drug costs and health bills, according to the new Axios-Ipsos American Health Index.

The big picture: Pocketbook health issues still resonate the most with voters, who are increasingly convinced businesses and politicians don't have their backs.

What they found: The national survey of 1,213 U.S. adults found almost 8 in 10 want insurers to cover weight-loss drugs, and almost 9 in 10 back a monthly cap on out-of-pocket costs for insulin.

  • Given options for future government action, half picked lowering costs for health care and prescription drugs. That far exceeded reducing gun deaths or researching cures and treating major disease, which tied for second place.
  • "These public health challenges are important, but for the typical American it's the bite out of their pocketbook that is even more important," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "Today in America, making ends meet is an increasing challenge so the No. 1 health priority returns back to the overall priority for most Americans, being able to afford the basic necessities of life."

By the numbers: 78% of respondents said they strongly or somewhat support health insurers covering the cost of weight loss or obesity drugs, while 20% strongly or somewhat opposed the idea. Many insurers, including Medicare, don't.

  • 84% strongly or somewhat back placing a $35-per-month limit on the out-of-pocket costs for insulin, while 14% are strongly or somewhat opposed. The Inflation Reduction Act set a cap for Medicare beneficiaries, but Congress stopped short of doing the same for privately insured patients.
  • 72% said they believe health costs are increasing where they live, while only 1% said costs were declining and 12% said costs were unchanged.
  • There's widespread distrust of American business and government: 76% of respondents strongly or somewhat believe businesses aren't making consumers' health and well-being a priority, while 74% say the same about the government.

Between the lines: The cost concerns help explain why Democrats sold Medicare drug price negotiations as a brake on inflation — and why President Biden sees an opening to press for insulin cost caps for privately insured patients and for extending enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies, among other steps.

  • But while the financial squeeze is being felt regardless of party affiliation, there still are deep partisan divisions over some cost and coverage decisions.
  • Americans overall are almost evenly split over whether insurers should cover transgender-related medical care, but only 16% of Republicans support the idea, compared to 77% of Democrats and 44% of independents.
  • Asked if America has spent enough fighting COVID, 76% of Republicans agree, compared to 22% of Democrats and 53% of independents.

Americans remain divided on whether the pandemic is over but 71% strongly or somewhat believe the nation isn't adequately prepared to deal with another big outbreak or widespread health crisis.

  • 3 in 4 still support people quarantining for at least five days if they test positive for COVID or another contagious respiratory virus.
  • Fewer than 10% said they tested positive in the past three months, and only 4% reported setbacks in their lives due to long COVID. But 13% said they'd had the flu, RSV or another non-COVID respiratory illness.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Feb. 17-21 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,213 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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