Americans are clearly unhappy about the rising cost of prescription drugs and healthcare, and the leading 2016 presidential candidates have proposed all sorts of ideas to fix the problem. Here’s a snapshot of what the candidates have said on these important issues.
Where the Major Candidates Agree
It’s hard to imagine Clinton and Trump agreeing on anything, but they actually have some ideas in common. Here’s a summary:
- Both Trump and Clinton advocate importing prescriptions from overseas. Brand-name drugs are significantly more expensive in America than elsewhere throughout the world, as most Americans know. Both candidates propose legalizing the importation of prescriptions from other countries to help reduce the rising cost of brand drugs.(Interesting side fact: Many generics are actually the same price, or even cheaper, in America than they are in many other countries, including Canada.)
- Both Trump and Clinton support allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies. Most Americans agree that it’s outrageous that Medicare isn’t allowed to negotiate to reduce the cost of the prescriptions Medicare purchases for seniors. (Just for reference, in 2014 that cost was $143 billion). This issue seems to be one that has universal support among candidates.
- Both have called for more transparency in health prices.
- Both want to increase innovation and reduce time-to-market for new prescription drugs.
Where the Candidates Disagree
Donald Trump hasn’t provided many details regarding his plan for healthcare, but he has some specific proposals that would impact healthcare costs and services in this country. Specifically:
- Repeal Obamacare. Trump wants to repeal Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) and restore free market principles. He believes the ACA has caused runaway healthcare costs, higher premiums, and fewer choices, among other issues. He has promised to repeal Obamacare on “day one” of his administration.
- Insurance. While anti-Obamacare, he still supports the mandate that everyone be required to have health insurance (and also said no one should be required to have insurance). He wants to change current laws to allow the sale of health insurance across state lines, stating that increased competition will drive down prices. He also wants to allow insurance premiums to be tax-deductible.
- Immigrants. Trump blames illegal immigrants for high prescription prices, saying it costs $11 billion annually to insure them.
Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has posted extensively about her plans to expand Obamacare and tackle the high cost of prescription medications. She was very vocal during the EpiPen price controversy during the summer of 2016 when she demanded an explanation from the manufacturer. Here’s a summary of Clinton’s positions:
- Defend and expand Obamacare & Medicare. Expand the program, and let Americans 55 and older buy into Medicare.
- Costs. Reduce co-pays, deductibles and out of pocket limits, especially for patients with chronic conditions. She proposes a limit of $250/month per person, and says it will help 1 million Americans annually.
- Advertising. Prohibit the pharmaceutical industry from advertising directly to consumers.
- Limits. Require drug companies that get taxpayer support to invest in research, not marketing, and limit “excessive” profits.
- Brand drugs. Clinton has proposed penalties to drug manufacturers who raise drug prices without justification, as well as government intervention to find other manufacturers or solutions when a brand-name drug increases in price.
- Patents. Reduce patent protection for specialty drugs from 12 years to just 7, so Americans can get access to generics quicker. Also prohibit the practice of letting drug companies pay to delay the expiration of drug patents.
- FDA. Clear out the FDA backlog of unapproved drugs.
Both candidates have made claims which appear to be factually inaccurate.
In a March 2016 debate, Trump claimed the government could save “hundreds of billions of dollars in waste” through negotiating prescription drug prices. However, the annual budget for Medicare Part D is less than that amount.
In a January 2016 advertisement, Clinton’s campaign claimed that drug prices have doubled in the last seven years. While brand name drugs have increased in price, generic drug prices have actually dropped significantly. The average increase for all drug purchases, while hard to measure, is likely not double.
What about the other presidential candidates?
Other presidential candidates may be less well known, but they’ve touched on healthcare reform.
Jill Stein (Green Party)
Stein believes strongly in the role of the government to provide quality healthcare for Americans. From her campaign website: “(Jill will) establish an improved ‘Medicare For All’ single-payer public health insurance program to provide everyone with quality healthcare, at huge savings.” Her plan would eliminate co-pays, premiums and deductibles, as well as any limitations whatsoever. Her platform does not indicate how these expanded benefits would be funded. Like Clinton and Trump, she also wants to use bulk purchasing negotiations by the government to reduce the cost of prescriptions.
Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party)
Johnson does not specifically mention drug prices on his campaign website. Typically, libertarian candidates prefer market forces to legislation, so one could presume that he would generally be against new laws or interference with the private market. Gary believes “the government should never regulate prices of private businesses.” While not directly related to prescription drugs, Johnson also advocates legalizing the use of marijuana.
Where does GoodRx stand? What’s the right answer?
The best candidate to tackle high drug prices is . . . nah, we’re not going to go there.
Providing quality, affordable healthcare is a very complicated problem, and it likely requires more than a bunch of campaign promises to solve. The solution requires big changes to the way our system currently works—Congress, insurance companies, employers and, yes, patients will all have to reset expectations.
Regardless of which candidate wins, we’ll continue to do our part to help Americans understand the system and find ways to afford their healthcare.