May 24, 2023 - Health

Axios Harris Poll 100: Americans move on from "defensive" health

Share who say they rate each select U.S. industry positively
Data: Axios Harris poll; Note: Positive refers to a reputation score of 5, 6 or 7 on a scale from 1-7; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care companies were less visible and less reputable for most Americans last year compared to earlier in the pandemic, according to new rankings from the annual Axios Harris Poll 100.

Why it matters: The crisis put drugmakers, insurers and other health sector players at the top of most everyone's mind. Now, Americans have shifted their focus to companies that offer more tangible services.

"We've seen significant increases in Americans wanting to own their own health since the pandemic," John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll told Axios.

  • "They say they're taking better care of themselves," he said. "They've moved from defensive health to proactive health. That's why many of these companies like CVS performed well."

Details: Retail pharmacy giant CVS ranked 19th among the 100 brands survey respondents identified as most visible in the country today, up from a ranking of 36th last year.

  • Competitor Walgreens was also on the list, ranked 39th. Both are part of a race to expand their health care delivery footprints.
  • CVS, in particular, stood out ranking among the top companies for "citizenship," defined as a company that "shares my values" and "supports good causes." It also ranked highly for trust and for growth among consumers.
  • CVS was among the top-performing companies among baby boomers.
  • "We've seen just a tremendous amount of friction with American patients trying to get in to see their doctors," Gerzema said, pointing to recent Harris-American Academy of Physician Associates poll results. Americans said their average wait time to see a doctor is 3.9 weeks while more than one in four Americans rated the health care system a "D" or an "F."
  • "The natural benefactors of that are the retail physicians," Gerzema said. "It's just far more convenient, it's accessible. As both Walgreens and CVS are moving rapidly in that space with ... the buying of various health care companies, they're positioning themselves as a frictionless health care experience."

The other side: Companies such as biotech and COVID vaccine maker Moderna and cleaning products brand Clorox which played a huge role during the pandemic and made the list of the 100 most recognized companies in 2022, do not appear in the top 100 companies survey in this years' Axios 100 poll.

The intrigue: Pharmaceutical company and COVID vaccine maker Pfizer ranked 50th in the poll and ranked among the top-performing companies among Democrats.

  • It was also among the top 10 companies with the greatest partisan split when it comes to its reputation among consumers.
  • While Pfizer saw its scores related to its trajectory and products improve, consumers' trust in the brand, as well as their feelings about its growth, vision, citizenship, ethics, and culture declined.
  • "It had such an incredible, comet-like jump because they were so instrumental in the vaccine race," Gerzema said. "The entire pharma category historically is always down overall. Consumers don't really trust and like the category. So it feels like this is normalizing a bit."
  • Pfizer is still benefiting from a pandemic bump as its reputational scores remain above where they were before the pandemic.

Be smart: Under pressure from Congress and the Biden administration, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi all dropped insulin prices in March.

  • They're not only avoiding paying hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid rebates by dropping the prices, the pharma industry also appeared to get a unique reputational bump while most industries were flat or trending down, per The Harris Poll.
  • They've also sustained that bump in the poll's latest industry results in May.

Go deeper: Full results and poll methodology

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