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Top Democrats call for watchdog to review Trump Medicare drug cards

Top Democrats call for watchdog to review Trump Medicare drug cards
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Top-ranking Democrats want an independent watchdog to expedite a review of the Trump administration's plans to send $200 Medicare prescription drug discount cards to seniors.

The lawmakers said they don't think the administration has the legislative authority to enact the plan, and they're concerned it is an improper attempt to influence the election.

"Given the unusual nature of these taxpayer-funded payments to Medicare beneficiaries, we are concerned that the demonstration fails to comply with relevant federal laws and regulations," Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Kudlow confident that Trump can 'round up' Senate GOP behind coronavirus relief deal | US deficit spikes to record .1T Top Democrat: Tax credit expansions must be in next coronavirus relief package Treasury withheld nearly M from FDNY 9/11 health program MORE (Mass.), and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (Ore.) wrote in a letter to the Government Accountability Office.

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Trump in late September announced that his administration will send $200 coupons to 33 million seniors on Medicare to use to pay for prescription drugs, branded with his name. 

The move surprised many officials and immediately raised legal questions, given that Congress has not authorized the roughly $7 billion in spending.

Trump made no effort to disguise the fact that he sees the move as a political benefit with seniors, a key voting bloc, ahead of the election. 

The lawmakers also questioned the administration’s plan to tout the cards in a letter to 39 million Medicare beneficiaries as early as next this week, which would cost $19 million in administrative costs alone.

Administration officials are pitching the plan as a way to test part of the Medicare program, but the Democrats questioned whether it was legally permissible under Medicare's demonstration authority.

In a separate letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the lawmakers blasted the plan as a political stunt.

"After four years of empty promises to lower drug prices for the American people, the President now appears to be attempting to buy votes just weeks before the election using taxpayer dollars," they wrote.

"Even if the issuance of Trump cards were legal, which, to be clear, we do not think they are, these cards would not make up for the Trump Administration’s failure to address drug pricing in a meaningful way over the last four years," the Democrats wrote.