Penn -- and Tell Her

  • by: |
  • 01/17/2007
Remember when we suggested that polls showing the American public strongly in favor of "government pricing" for Part D might be, er, influenced by the way the questions were posed("The Big Muscle,", December 8, 2006)?

Well according to Mark Penn (aka: Hillary's new chief campaign strategist), that's precisely the case.

And the "Her" is Speaker Pelosi.

Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and The Tarrance Group recently conducted a joint national poll measuring public opinion on the current legislative proposal that would require Congress to negotiate Medicare prescription drugs prices with pharmaceutical companies.

The summary below is really a summary judgement against "government pricing."

When Downsides are Understood, Voters Oppose Government Negotiation

While voters offer initial support for the current proposal that would require Congress to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, once voters are educated about the potential implications of the proposal, the public overwhelmingly opposes it.

* Initially, 76% of voters support government negotiation and 24% oppose it. However, when this question is asked, voters have received no details about the proposal or its possible consequences.

* After being asked about the negative implications of the proposal, opinion flips – only 35% support government negotiation and 65% oppose it. There is majority opposition across Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Fear of the Government Limiting Access to Prescription Drugs Shifts Public Opinion

Learning that the proposal could limit access to prescription drugs dramatically erodes support for government negotiation.

* 89% oppose the proposal when they learn it could limit access to new prescription drugs.

* 87% oppose the proposal when they learn it could restrict choice of prescription drugs.

* 86% oppose the proposal when they learn similar proposals in other countries like Great Britain and Australia have restricted access to prescription drugs.

* 77% oppose the proposal when they learn that it give the government the right to create a single list of government-approved prescription drugs.

* 80% of voters judge the proposal as “not worth it” after learning that the Congressional Budget Office has reported that granting the federal government the power to negotiate drug prices will not save enough money to fill gaps in coverage.

Voters Have Clear Reservations about Government Negotiation

Voters were asked a series of questions about their opinions of government negotiation, which collectively suggest deep reservations about the proposal.

* 81% agree that the government is not a good price negotiator

* 78% agree that government negotiation would limit access to prescription drugs

* 75% agree that the market should set prescription drug prices, not the government

* 66% agree that government negotiation gives the federal government too much authority and is a dangerous precedent

Medicare Part D is Currently Well Received

Currently, opinion on the Medicare Part D prescription Drug program is very positive and improving.

* 55% of voters nationally have a favorable opinion of the program

* 61% of voters nationally say enrollees are saving money

* 68% of voters nationally say the program a step in the right direction

Other public surveys have repeatedly reported that satisfaction levels among enrollees are much higher; roughly eight-in-ten enrollees expressing satisfaction with their plans.

In conclusion, any legislation that jeopardizes the success of the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program would likely have a negative impact on the general public’s opinion of Congress.


Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and The Tarrance Group conducted 1,098 national interviews between December 19 - 22, 2006.

Interviews were conducted among Americans who voted in the 2006 midterm elections.

The overall margin of sampling error is +/-2.96% and larger among subgroups.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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