In A Politically Polarized Year, Poll Finds Wide Agreement Among Voters On A Key Health Care Agenda

A new poll of voters in battleground states finds a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement on health care, with Americans strongly favoring action on public policies that support medical discovery into new treatments and cures. The poll was jointly commissioned by the Galen Institute and Center Forward, center-right and center-left think tanks.

Purple Insights interviewed 800 registered voters earlier this month and found that nearly all those surveyed believe it is important for the United States to continue to develop new treatments and cures for diseases and believe these new discoveries are an opportunity to help the United States maintain its competitive edge.

A strong 78% say that fostering policies that support medical innovation should be a top priority for members of Congress and candidates for Congress.

Other key findings of the poll:

  • Nearly two-thirds of voters (65%) want the next president to prioritize medical discovery during his/her first 100 days in office
  • The poll shows overwhelming support for ongoing access to new treatments and cures through Medicare and private health plans, for modernizing the Food and Drug Administration, and facilitating new public-private partnerships
  • 52% identify biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as investing the most in new discoveries; 20% thought academia and non-profit institutions were the top investors, and only 13% said the federal government and government agencies invest the most.

The respondents are correct:  Private companies invest $59 billion in medical research every year. The federal government’s budget for medical research, including the National Institutes of Health, is $30 billion.  Similar data are not available for investments by academia and non-profit institutions.

The poll results come at a time when new breakthroughs have been dominating the headlines, including cures and treatments for cancer, cystic fibrosis, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and leukemia, among other conditions.

The development of treatments and cures already is a focus for policymakers, with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton leading the charge with the 21st Century Cures Act. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the measure last year, and it is now working its way through the Senate.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander recently said, “In this year of political turmoil, the ‘21st Cures’ Act offers a welcome opportunity for consensus [and to] profoundly improve the health of virtually every American.”

“From a polling standpoint, we’ve primarily seen divisive or mixed results on the majority of health care issues,” said Doug Usher, managing partner of Purple Insights. “This is a rare example of consensus in the midst of a contentious election cycle.”

Among the top reasons Americans support medical innovation:

  • By 95% to 4%, those surveyed said medical discoveries can improve the overall quality of health care in the U.S.
  • By 94% to 4%, they say that medical discoveries can help the U.S. maintain its competitive edge in science
  • By 93% to 6%, they say they can boost American productivity by helping create a healthy workforce

Equally strong majorities said that medical discoveries can reduce costs associated with hospitalizations and nursing home stays and that investment in this area can improve the U.S. economy and sustain higher paying jobs with scientists who will continue to develop new medical discoveries.

Those surveyed also said they don’t think Congress is doing enough now:  64% say Congress is doing too little to promote the discovery of new treatments and cures, with only 16% saying it is doing enough.

Respondents said greater independence for patients, preventing disease in the first place, and treating diseases that don’t yet have treatments were all strong reasons to continue this investment.

When asked what policies Congress should support to further medical innovation, those polled listed investments in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—education as number one.  Modernizing the FDA, and making sure that Medicare and other health plans cover these new treatments and cures were also at the top of the list for public policy action.

“This presents a unique opportunity for candidates and members of Congress alike to work across party lines to make meaningful progress on an issue important to Americans,” said Center Forward Executive Director Cori Kramer.  “These consistent and candid results show that voters across the board prioritize the development of new treatments and cures.”

The poll shows that strong public policies that support medical innovation are unifying in a time of political polarization. Republicans and Democrats can see that Americans are aware that this new era of medical breakthroughs benefits patients, families, and our economy.

Read the article in Forbes


About the author

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that she founded in 1995 to promote an informed debate over free-market ideas for health reform.

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