Prescription Drug Prices, Unemployment Insurance, Anti-Asian Racism: RAND Weekly Recap

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September 17, 2021

This week, we discuss prescription drug prices, unemployment insurance reform, how to mitigate the effects of disasters, anti-Asian racism, L.A. County Sheriff's Department subgroups, and how to reduce extremism in the military.

A pharmacist scanning a bar code on a box of prescription medication, photo by MJ_Prototype/Getty Images

Photo by MJ_Prototype/Getty Images

One Way to Potentially Cut U.S. Drug Prices in Half

High prescription drug prices in the United States drive up overall health care costs and lead many patients to forgo their medications. What if U.S. drug prices were linked to those in other countries?

In a new RAND study, researchers modeled the effects of capping prices for U.S. prescription drugs at 120 percent of those paid in six other high-income nations. They found that this change would have cut U.S. spending on insulins and 50 top brand-name drugs by 52 percent in 2020—a savings of $83.5 billion.

Britni Mann waits to speak with potential employers during a job fair at Hembree Park in Roswell, Georgia, May 13, 2021, photo by Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

Britni Mann waits to speak with potential employers during a job fair at Hembree Park in Roswell, Georgia, May 13, 2021.

Photo by Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

Unemployment Insurance: To Help Workers, Help Businesses

Earlier this month, federal action to prop up America's state-based unemployment system wound down, affecting millions of Americans. This highlights the underlying flaw of unemployment insurance, says RAND's Kathryn Edwards: Businesses, which fund the program through payroll taxes, see little if any direct upside. This creates incentives for states and businesses to make benefits less generous and harder for workers to receive. In light of this reality, Congress may want to pursue lasting unemployment reform that can withstand the next crisis, Edwards says.

Lower Ninth Ward area residents walk by the reconstructed wall of a levee at the Lower Ninth Ward canal in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 16, 2015, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Residents walk by the reconstructed wall of a levee at the Lower Ninth Ward canal in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 16, 2015.

Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

'Building Back Better' to Mitigate the Effects of Disasters

Louisiana and its neighbors have been hammered by storm after storm—most recently Hurricane Ida. What might it take to help communities not only recover from such disasters, but also reduce their future risk? According to Jay Balagna of the Pardee RAND Graduate School and RAND's Aaron Clark-Ginsberg, it's essential to look at how disaster preparedness and response systems can actually create risk themselves, by reinforcing wealth inequality, systemic discrimination, and disparities in access to crucial services.

A man holds a placard reading “Asian Americans are Americans” during the National Day of Action rally in Flushing, New York, March 27, 2021, photo by Ron Adar/SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters

A man takes part in a National Day of Action rally in the neighborhood of Flushing in New York City, March 27, 2021.

Photo by Ron Adar/SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters

Addressing Anti-Asian Racism

Anti-Asian hate crimes increased by nearly 150 percent in major U.S. cities in 2020, goaded by political rhetoric that sought to focus the COVID-19 conversation on China. In a new Q&A, part of an ongoing series of conversations with RAND president and CEO Michael Rich, researchers Lu Dong and Jennifer Bouey discuss this rise in hate, the need for better data, and the importance of listening to different Asian American communities.

A Los Angeles County Sheriffs vehicle patrols the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, February 24, 2021, photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's vehicle patrols the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, February 24, 2021.

Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Problematic 'Subgroups' of L.A. Sheriff's Deputies

For decades, some deputies in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have organized themselves into secret subgroups. Many community members view these groups as the source of behaviors such as hazing, covering up for fellow deputies, harassing residents, and excessive use of force. A new RAND report explores how to better understand and address this issue. "There needs to be greater consistency among command staff in setting expectations and enforcing policies that discourage the influence of these groups," says lead author Samuel Peterson.

Jessica Marie Watkins (second from left) and Donovan Ray Crowl (center), both U.S. veterans who have since been indicted for their roles in the Capitol riot, in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

Jessica Marie Watkins (second from left) and Donovan Ray Crowl (center), both U.S. veterans who have since been indicted for their roles in the Capitol riot, in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021.

Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

How to Reduce the Risk of Extremism in the Military

The vast majority of U.S. military personnel are not extremists. But recent reports of current or former personnel engaging in extremist activities and violence—including the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol—have highlighted the threat of extremist activity in the military. In a new paper, RAND researchers examine the scope of the problem and evaluate how to effectively prevent, detect, and address extremism in the ranks.

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