TRENTON – Large majorities of New Jerseyans age 50 and older say Medicare should be able to negotiate with drugmakers to get lower prices for prescription medications, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll done in partnership with AARP.

The issue is currently a key one before Congress as Democrats try to reach an elusive agreement on what programs and provisions to include in the social-program budget reconciliation bill. The potential Medicare savings are seen as one way to offset the cost of the spending.

The opinion is shared across party lines, with 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans saying that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices. Ninety-eight percent of Democrats and 85% of Republicans say it is very or somewhat important to act on prescription costs this year.

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“This is what’s really interesting to me is the fact that there is nothing in modern American politics that 90% of any group agrees on,” said Dan Cassino, executive director of the FDU Poll and a professor of government and politics. “Twenty percent of Americans think that 9/11 was faked, so if you can get 90% of people to agree on anything, that’s pretty notable.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation says that in 2019, Medicare Part D covered more than 3,500 prescription drug products with total spending of $183 billion, not including rebates.

Medicare cannot negotiate with drug companies to get better prices, as other countries and private insurers do.

“It's outrageous that we're paying three times more in other countries for the same drugs,” said Stephanie Hunsinger, AARP New Jersey state director. “No one should have to choose between buying medicine or paying for their food or rent.”

“Our New Jersey representatives have a chance to make real change by allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices,” Hunsinger said. “Pharma is getting rich and we are getting ripped off. Enough is enough.”

Eighty-three percent of voters 50 and older say they’ve been prescribed medication in the past two years, and a quarter say they’ve decided not to fill at least one prescription. Cassino said there are sometimes personal and medical reasons for that but that cost was one of the most commonly cited reasons for skipping a prescription.

“Most of the people we’re talking to are on Medicare, so they have government-provided health insurance that’s supposed to be covering their prescriptions,” Cassino said. “But still we find a quarter of people over 50 say they have skipped a medication the last couple years.”

Two-thirds of residents 50 and older say they’re very or somewhat concerned about being able to afford medications in the future.

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Cassino said the poll results show people think negotiating drug prices is “a common-sense idea” and that moderate Democrats on the fence about the topic might want to take heed.

“This is across the state, North Jersey, South Jersey,” he said. “If 90% of my constituents think this is a good idea, it might be a good idea perhaps to give them what they want.”

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