A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Ahead of first gubernatorial debate, poll finds voters burdened by high prescription drug costs

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

A new poll from AARP finds 83% of Kentucky voters age 50 and older think drug companies have influence over their governor and state legislators.

The findings come as incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic Party challenger Andy Beshear, the state’s attorney general, gear up for the first gubernatorial debate being held Thursday night in Paducah.

Ohio County resident and retiree Charlotte Whittaker says she’s feeling burdened by the ballooning cost of her medications.

Gov. Matt Bevin and his challenger, Attorney General Andy Beshear, appear at this year’s Fancy Farm Picnic. (Photo from Scott Wegenast, via PNS)

“And my doctor, recently, when I was with her, she said, ‘How can I treat someone when I know they cannot afford the prescription they need to be on?’” Whittaker relates. “Where’s that put the medical world, when they want to help their patients, but yet their patients cannot afford these pricey drugs?”

According to the survey, nearly nine of out 10 older Kentuckians say prescription drug companies are making too much profit, and almost as many say elected officials aren’t doing enough to curb costs.

Khelan Bhatia, director of voter engagement for AARP, points out that because health care costs tend to increase with age, many Commonwealth residents age 50 and older are being forced to make tough choices, such as buying food or paying for their medications.

“And that’s why we have to make sure that we have mechanisms in place to help lower the costs, the health care costs, specifically prescription drugs,” he stresses. “Because we pay the highest prices in the world, and we’re supposed to be the wealthiest country in the world.”

Research published earlier this year in the journal Health Affairs found the cost of brand name oral prescription drugs jumped by more than 9% between 2008 and 2016.

Insulin is now more than twice as expensive as it was in 2012.

Whittaker says politics isn’t the issue.

“It’s not a Democratic problem and it’s not a Republican problem,” she stresses. “It is a national crisis, in my opinion.”

The amount of cash Americans shell out for their prescription drugs is expected to increase by 6.1% in 2020, according to projections by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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