President Donald Trump has often decried the high cost of prescription medications for Americans and has sought to take action where possible to relieve that financial burden, including a recent proposal to send $200 drug-discount benefit cards to seniors on Medicare.
Although the plan was stalled for months over questions on cost and legality, it has now received approval from a key industry interest group, Politico reported.
The plan, first proposed in September, was almost immediately shelved over questions regarding legality, the cost to taxpayers, and if it would be able to receive the approval of the Special Interest Group for Inventory Information Approval System Standards — the industry insiders that oversee benefit cards and electronic point-of-sale transactions.
That panel had reportedly been pressured for several weeks by the Trump administration to approve the plan and finally did so on Monday, apparently to the surprise of some inside the administration who had been pushing the plan.
In fact, one unnamed source who had dismissed the idea as being an unworkable nonstarter told Politico they were “shocked” that SIGIS had granted its approval to the Medicare discount plan.
Save seniors money
At a September rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, the president told his supporters, “Under my plan, 33 million Medicare beneficiaries will soon receive a card in the mail containing $200 that they can use to help pay for prescription drugs.”
An initial cost estimate for the plan was $6.6 billion, which presumably would be paid for out of savings for Medicare as a result of a separate “most favored nation” executive order from the president that was expected to reduce costs paid by Medicare recipients for prescription drugs from overseas.
As for the questionable legality of the plan and the fact that it had not been derived from any legislation, the White House pointed to a provision within the Social Security Act that permits Medicare to conduct experiments and “demonstrations” of potential cost-saving programs in order to study the impact prior to official or widespread implementation, NPR reported.
Estimates for the size and cost of the proposal have since expanded to $7.9 billion to cover 39 million Medicare seniors, according to Politico. Although the plan cleared a significant obstacle by obtaining approval from SIGIS, there are still a number of hurdles that need to be cleared before the plan can go into effect.
CNBC reported that those remaining obstacles include how to adequately notify some 39 million Medicare recipients that the cards are on the way, as well as how to educate them on how the cards could be used. Another issue is how the administration, which may well be leaving by the end of next month, would be able to get all of the $200 benefit cards in the mail within such a short time frame.
Another major factor is that the incoming Biden administration — assuming that Democratic nominee Joe Biden is sworn-in as president on Jan. 20 — is not supportive of the plan and likely would not back its continuation once in power.
Regardless of the outcome, there’s no question that Trump has explored every potential avenue to try and save America’s seniors money on expensive prescription medications.