Democrats are urging a watchdog to investigate President Trump’s plans to send $200 Medicare prescription drug cards to seniors. The total costs of the drug cards would add up to nearly $8 billion, with funds taken from the Medicare trust fund.
Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ), Richard Neal (Mass.), and Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) wrote to the Government Accountability Office: “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.”
The drug discount card plan
Trump planned to send $200 drug discount coupons to nearly 39 million seniors. There was also supposed to be a letter sent out this week touting the cards, which would cost $19 million in administrative costs. But neither the plan nor the spending was authorized by Congress.
Trump is likely attempting to win over senior voters in time for the election, which is in two weeks. At this point, it is unlikely that the discount cards will even reach seniors before the election, if ever. The cards are still in review and could invite legal problems.
Top Democrats believe the cards are a last-ditch effort to appease seniors when the Trump administration has not lowered drug prices over the past four years.
In addition, top Health and Human Services lawyer Robert Charrow warned that the drug card plan could be against the law, and advised officials to seek approval from the Department of Justice (DOJ) division that oversees election crimes.
Tricia Neuman of the Kaiser Family Foundation said of the $200 discount, “It would do relatively little for seniors with truly catastrophic prescription drug expenses.”
Last-minute election efforts
Experts believe the “Trump cards” are part of a larger trend of the President’s last-minute efforts to gain the senior vote. Other efforts he has made include sending boxes of food to needy families with letters signed by Trump inside, as well as a $300 million ad campaign to “defeat despair” surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Of late, Trump is behind Joe Biden in the polls, and also behind in money raised and ad spending.
There is the worry that such questionable actions as using federal funds to influence the election could take precedent and become a new normal for subsequent presidents.