This was updated on September 30, 2020.
Part of President Trump’s “America First Health Plan” is the emphasis on lowering prescription drug prices, especially for seniors. After the drug industry told the President that the discount cards weren’t going to happen, Trump turned around on Thursday, September 24, and upped the price. Now Trump is saying that he is sending seniors $200 drug discount cards in the mail. Where is this money coming from? Experts are calling TRUMPERY.
“Nobody’s seen this before, these cards are incredible,” Trump said Thursday during a speech on health care. “The cards will be mailed out in coming weeks, I will always take care of our wonderful senior citizens. Joe Biden won’t be doing this.”
Trump NEEDS the senior vote to stand a chance in this election. Political experts are accusing him of making false promises and saying whatever it takes to win the senior vote, as he is falling behind Biden in the polls.
An analysis from FiveThirtyEight this month found that Biden was up in polls among voters 65 and older by about 4 percentage points, a reversal from 2016, when Trump won that age group by 13.3 percentage points.
“He has to make sure he wins seniors in Florida,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said of Trump. “Florida and Arizona is where seniors are a big part of the vote.”
The price tag
Sending coupons to that many Medicare beneficiaries would cost at least $6.6 billion. Two senior White House staff said the money can be used as part of a Medicare program, called the 402 demonstration, that tests innovations that could save money or improve the quality of care in Medicare.
Experts are confused
Democrats and some health experts said it would be an unprecedented use of the Medicare program for political gain ahead of the election. Public Citizen, a watchdog and consumer advocacy group, slammed the move as a “pathetic attempt to bribe [seniors] for their votes.”
Trump’s revival — and enlargement — of the discount cards caught the health care industry by surprise, according to lobbyists who described themselves as baffled to what the president was talking about, and how he could claim the authority to spend so much money on the effort.
“After failing to take real action to lower seniors’ prescription drug prices, President Trump wants to steal from the Medicare Trust Fund for a desperately transparent political gimmick,” Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.) said in a statement. “The Administration’s claim to be using imaginary savings from non-existent drug price reforms means that Trump’s coupons come at Medicare’s expense and that seniors and taxpayers are paying the price for this stunt,” she added.
In an effort to bring down drug prices, the Trump administration and the pharmaceutical industry were trying to reach a deal. But when the White House demanded $100 prepaid cash cards be sent to seniors before the election, the drug industry said NO.
Drug companies were set to spend $150 billion over time to help with out-of-pocket drug costs and cover copayment costs for seniors with Medicare Part D. The details and time frame of the deal are not clear.
Trump cards: $100 cash cards
Then, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows asked that drug makers pay for $100 cash cards to be mailed to seniors before the November election.
Priscilla VanderVeer, a vice president at PhRMA, the prescription drug industry’s largest trade group, said: “One-time savings cards will neither provide lasting help nor advance the fundamental reforms necessary to help seniors better afford their medicines.”
The deal would have been beneficial to both Trump and the drug companies, as Trump is striving to hang onto the senior vote, and the drug makers have been under fire for exorbitant prices.
Trump has been working to pass executive orders on drug prices, but these are most likely subject to change and ineffective last-minute, last-ditch efforts.
The Trump administration appears to be taking risks with the goal of changing election outcomes. They run anti-drug company campaign ads while working closely with the drug industry behind closed doors.
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