Trump’s drug card plan runs into another hurdle

Now that Trump’s term of office is six weeks left, the administration’s Medicare team has put together the a revised plan – circulated within the administration on Tuesday with instructions to speed up approval – to start sending letters to 39 million beneficiaries next week advertising drug discount cards. The cards would then arrive during December and January, according to four officials, knowing the plan.

However, the White House continues to face unforeseen obstacles: the resistance of an industrial consortium known as the Special Interest Group on Inventory Information Approval System Standards, or SIGIS. Define standards for health care cards through guidelines from the Internal Revenue Service.

The consortium rejected Trump’s proposed drug cards for weeks and raised concerns that the president’s planned one-time $ 200 discount cards were inconsistent with the other cards he regulated that are used to buy medical products and services, officials said. The group, which helps manage electronic transactions at the point of sale, rejected Trump’s efforts to restrict cards used exclusively for drugs, which SIGIS maintains would require them to be exempted from the standards used to program other cards. .

The Trump administration then turned to the SIGIS board, which also rejected the president’s proposed cards, three officials said.

Approval from the competent body is essential for the mass production of millions of cards at retail outlets, officials said.

“We thought that after the SIGIS board said no, these things were dead in the water,” a health official said.

The Trump administration continues to push for a review of the organization and may instruct SIGIS to simply disregard regulations for its other cards, officials said. This instruction may take the form of a letter from Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin, who participated in the administration’s negotiations with the regulator.

The administration has also sought to get regulators exempt cards from security rules under an 2014 Obama-era implementing regulation aimed at improving consumer financial protection, such as chip-and-PIN technology.

In a statement, the White House defended the re-pressing of drug cards.

“It was never about politics, as further demonstrated by the fact that the administration will continue to do so after election day,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told POLITICO. “This is simply good policy and demonstrates that President Trump will continue to keep his promises to our nation’s elders to reduce drug prices.”

Representatives of SIGIS did not reply to the comments. Medicare officials and the Treasury did not respond to questions asking for comments.

Trump’s promise to send a $ 200 drug discount card to seniors, which he says will arrive “in the coming weeks,” in September, sparked a scramble to have the cards discarded before the election. However, the plan immediately faced logistical and legal concerns. Trump, the health department’s chief attorney, has warned the plan could violate election law as it is seen as a last-minute effort by voters and congressional Democrats have opened probes on the proposal.

Career officials have also raised concerns about the complicated financial operation of allocating $ 200 in taxpayer resources to seniors with few ropes.

As the card proposal stalled during October, the White House insisted that the president continue to follow the plan after election day. “The program is approved and moving forward,” a senior White House official told POLITICO on October 30th. “Cards will be sent out in November and December.”

But the plan, backed by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and backed by Seema Verma, head of Medicare, has been largely rejected until last week, two officials told POLITICO. The White House will be happy to show if Trump keeps his promise, these officials said, noting that White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pushed by reporters last week over the vague status of the plan.

Trump’s drug card proposal has been circulated by drug policy researchers and says it would do little to reduce the high drug costs for the elderly. Although the White House has also placed the cards as a legally authorized “test” of the Medicare program, it is not clear what the cards are actually being tested or why the test is necessary.

“Research has already shown that if you give people money to buy prescription drugs, they will buy more of them,” Peter Medicare, a Medic Medic oncologist who chaired the Medicare Advisory Committee, wrote in the New York Times last week. “The same studies also show that when people are given cash indiscriminately for medicines – not just those who need it most, it costs a lot more overall than it saves.”

Democrats also accused Trump’s promised cards of making an inappropriate attempt to influence voters before election day, noting that there is still a key vote in Georgia – to determine Senate control.

“This is a last-minute attempt to disguise President Trump’s failed record in cutting drug prices and gain political points by wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a program that does nothing to provide meaningful relief to the elderly,” he said. Representative Frank Pallone. , Chairman of the House Energy and Trade Committee. The Pallone committee overseeing the health department has not yet received administrative briefings or key documents on the plan, despite issuing several requests in October, the spokesman said.

One health official informed of the revised plan called it a “terrible idea” that does not fit properly into the Medicare trust fund, adding that timing still raises questions.

“Why would it be less worrying in our current situation than before the November election?” the official added. Are we ready to set this type of political precedent, regardless? “