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What is Kaiser Family Foundation up to?

Brian Newell   |     October 12, 2021   |   SHARE THIS

For years, Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser) has reminded lawmakers that Americans are opposed to government “negotiation” in drug pricing should it lead to less access to medicines and destroy future innovation. Sadly, in a new poll, Kaiser is joining the partisan fray and political advocacy groups who are trying desperately to build congressional support for government price-setting.   

Here’s our take at PhRMA:

“It’s unfortunate when a respected organization is compelled to put out a misleading poll that contradicts years of its own nonpartisan research. This poll doesn’t present the whole debate and relies on straw-man arguments to steer the public toward a desired outcome. As Kaiser has shown for years, the public overwhelmingly rejects government price-setting when they learn it threatens access to medicines and future innovation. That’s the reality, no matter how uncomfortable it may now be for Kaiser and certain lawmakers, and that’s why patients and other concerned advocates will continue to call on Congress to reject this approach and work on a solution that lowers costs without jeopardizing access and future new treatments.”

While it has long been a trusted voice on important health care policies, Kaiser’s advocacy for this particular partisan policy outcome is deeply flawed and disappointing. Here’s why:

Kaiser has abandoned the nonpartisan, objective approach it’s always used and instead mimics political advocacy organizations. The obvious bias is to frame the argument as “supporters” versus “opponents,” while also providing unbalanced arguments on each side. For example, here’s how Protect Our Care – a group that supports government price-setting – frames the debate:

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And here’s how Kaiser now frames the issue (spoiler alert: it sounds very similar):

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When it has taken a more objective approach, Kaiser has consistently shown that the public OPPOSES government “negotiations” after they learn about the tradeoffs. Trusted public opinion research firms have found that to be true, and so has Kaiser – repeatedly. In fact, here is Kaiser in 2019:

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And here’s Kaiser just six months ago:

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Kaiser’s claim that they are presenting “the entirety of the public debate” falls flat. This latest poll does NOT present concerns over access, which as we all know is another key tradeoff the public is not willing to make. In fact, Kaiser’s own data (see here and here) shows strong public opposition to government negotiation if it could limit access to new medicines – opposition that stretches across party lines. If they were presenting the entire debate, why did Kaiser strip access concerns from its latest poll? Perhaps a better question: What is Kaiser Family Foundation really up to?

Brian Newell

Brian Newell is Deputy Vice President of Public Affairs at PhRMA and serves as lead spokesperson for national media. Before joining PhRMA in 2020, he served as managing director of strategic communications for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). Prior to BIO, Brian worked on Capitol Hill for ten years, including roles on the Education and Workforce Committee, the House Republican Conference and the Ways and Means Committee. Brian graduated with a BA in Political Science from the University of Maine, his home state. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two children – especially summer vacations on the lake in Maine.

Topics: Drug Cost, Medicare, Polling

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