One thing to note about the drug price issue is that although it’s a big “in your face” cost to a lot of Americans, it’s actually not a huge fraction of the entire health care pie. My understanding is that when you look at the price differential between US and other developed countries, about 15-20% of the differential (in dollar terms) is in medications and DME, about 30-35% in hospital costs and around 50% in doctor costs (specialists, in particular).
People get hit with drug costs routinely and have to pay them directly in many cases, but they are a small amount per unit compared to the big ticket items (again, in dollar terms) like surgery and hospitalization.
Medication price reform is definitely something that would be politically popular, and would help the US health care system, but it’s a secondary issue compared to hospital costs and the cost of specialist MDs.
One of the F’ed up things about our system is that a lot of the cost occurs in specific circumstances like end of life and major injuries/illnesses while what most people see in their daily lives are less costly but still painfully expensive stuff like routine visits, diagnostic studies and medications. So most citizens perceive both the cost of health care and the cost-drivers of healthcare as being different from reality.
In terms of the price issue, in the US it really boils down to: we pay more than double other developed countries to go to the hospital and almost triple the other developed countries to see a specialist, and most of those costs occur when the patient is in pretty damn bad shape. The stuff that effects people on a more daily basis is actually a smaller piece of the pie, monetarily speaking.