This article was updated on January 15, 2021.
The $200 Trump drug discount cards, which would have gone out to around 39 million Medicare beneficiaries, now will not happen. Essentially, the administration ran out of time to approve and mail out the cards.
CMS head Seema Verma told Business Insider that she didn’t anticipate the cards being sent. With inauguration day this coming Wednesday, there is not enough time left to secure all the sign-offs and create the cards.
The $7.9 billion plan was rushed and faced several legal hurdles along the way. Trump announced the plan in September, and the last report from Bloomberg stated that the cards would be mailed on January 1.
Other factors that halted the process were several Trump officials leaving office, as well as the fact that the Treasury Department team tasked with the drug discount cards was busy working on sending out stimulus checks.
When Trump first announced his plan for the discount cards in September, he said, “I will always take care of our wonderful senior citizens. Joe Biden won’t be doing this.”
Just in: The organization in charge of making sure standards are met for health benefits cards (SIGIS) approved President Trump’s $200 drug discount cards this week.
Could you be receiving a card soon? Bloomberg reported that the cards were expected to be mailed on January 1. Experts wonder how the government would alert 39 million Medicare beneficiaries and get the cards to them by January. But the Trump administration seems to be set on sending out the cards.
The Biden administration is not expected to be in favor of the drug discount cards, and they take over on January 20. The drug cards have been criticized for the amount they would cost ($7.9 billion), and there have been questions as to whether sending out the discount cards is even legal.
Trump drug discount cards: The background
President Trump made a campaign promise early this September that all seniors would receive a $200 drug-discount card in aid to fixing America’s prescription drug cost problem. Presumably, the President’s intention was to win over senior voters while noting that “Joe Biden won’t be doing this.”
The Trump Administration is now currently seeking to finalize the $7.9 billion drug-card plan. Unfortunately, the administration ran into a few roadblocks with the industry panel, Special Interest Group for Inventory Information Approval System Standards (SIGIS). The industry group plays a key role in point-of-care transactions for cards linked to health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and flexible spending account or arrangement (FSAs), and its approval is essential for mass-producing millions of cards that work at retail locations.
Experts warn of issues with drug cards
SIGIS warned the administration multiple times that Trump’s one-time cards, which would be sent to 39 million Medicare beneficiaries and only used for prescription drugs, do not meet the government’s own standards.
Drug-policy experts continue to agree that Trump’s drug plan makes little sense. They say that a $200 giveaway will reveal little about patient behavior, even though the Trump administration is positioning it as a “test” of the Medicare program to evaluate medical outcomes, test innovations, and lower costs. In this case, the idea is to test whether an incentive such as a discount card would encourage beneficiaries to take medications as prescribed. The cards would make only a small dent in seniors’ drug costs while drawing on taxpayer dollars.
“It’s just more trashing the hotel room before checkout,” said oncologist Peter Bach, who chairs a Medicare advisory committee and panned the drug-card plan in the New York Times last week. “This pointlessly strains the trust fund, hampering beneficial uses of it later.”
One health official briefed on the revised plan called it a “horrible idea” that would inappropriately dip into Medicare’s trust fund, adding that the timing still raises questions.
What’s next for Trump’s pledge to seniors?
The Trump administration subsequently appealed to SIGIS’ board of directors, which also rejected the president’s proposed cards. Without the industry panel’s approval, there would have been no way of mass-producing millions of cards that will work at retail locations.
As the card proposal ground to a halt across October, the White House insisted that the president would follow through with the plan after Election Day. “The program is approved and moving forward,” a senior White House official told POLITICO on October 30. “Cards will be sent out in the months of November and December.”