Trump administration officials pushing to get promised drug-discount cards to seniors before election: report
Health officials are struggling to meet an Election Day deadline to complete President Trump’s nearly $8 billion plan to send drug-discount cards to seniors, Politico reported Thursday.
The outlet reported the news based on interviews with five officials working on the effort and draft documents obtained by Politico.
The plan, first announced by the Trump administration two weeks ago, would give $200 cards to 39 million seniors on Medicare to use to pay for their prescription drugs.
According to Politico, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are aiming to finalize the plan Friday and send letters to Medicare recipients next week.
“The goal is to begin the test by distributing cards starting in October 2020,” according to a draft proposal circulated within the White House last week and obtained by Politico. The outlet said that many seniors will likely not receive the cards until after Nov. 3.
Democrats and others have raised concerns that the taxpayer-funded plan is part of an effort by the Trump campaign to win over votes from seniors across the U.S.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll published Sunday showed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 27 percentage points among seniors. A CNN/SSRS poll published Tuesday found a similar margin of 21 points.
However, White House spokesperson Judd Deere told Politico that the discount card plan “has nothing to do with politics.”
“It’s good policy and demonstrates the president is continuing to deliver on his promises to our nation’s seniors,” Deere added.
CMS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Politico that the move by the Trump administration is “a shameless stunt that steals billions from Medicare in order to fund a legally dubious scheme that’s clearly intended to benefit President Trump’s campaign right before Election Day.”
Democrats previously criticized the administration for ordering that Trump’s name be printed on millions of stimulus checks sent out by the IRS in the spring amid the coronavirus pandemic, claiming at the time that the president was attempting to take credit for a plan developed by congressional officials.
Health officials told Politico that they were not notified of the drug discount card plan until Trump announced it to the public on Sept. 24, in which he called the action the “America First Health care Plan,” and promised that the cards “will be mailed out in coming weeks.”
“We basically didn’t know until the public found out too,” said one health official who has been consulted on how to implement the policy.
“It’s turning into this last-minute, thrown-together thing,” said a Department of Health and Human Services official involved in the plan.
According to Politico, the plan is estimated to cost $7.9 billion, including about $51 million to create and distribute the cards. A draft proposal obtained by Politico also revealed that the government would need to spend $19 million to send letters outlining the plan to seniors.