Trumps promise to send people $200 drug discount cards isnt happening – Business Insider

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  • President Donald Trump promised in September that millions of people aged 65 and above would get government-funded gift cards to help them pay for prescription drugs. 
  • “I don’t anticipate at this time that there’ll be going out,” Medicare chief Seema Verma told Insider in an exclusive interview.
  • Trump’s time in office is coming to an end in a week, meaning the idea may never see the daylight unless Joe Biden picks it up.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The $200 prescription drug gift certificates that President Donald Trump promised ahead of the November election won’t be going out, according to his outgoing Medicare chief. 

The discount cards were supposed to get mailed out close to the November election to 33 million people on Medicare to help them pay for prescription drugs they buy at the pharmacy. Medicare covers seniors as well as others who qualify because of a disability. 

“At this time they haven’t gone out,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma told Insider in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, just one week before Trump is set to leave office. “I don’t anticipate at this time that there’ll be going out.” 

Trump first announced the cards were coming during a speech in September while campaigning in Charlotte, North Carolina, but the idea quickly drew criticism because Congress hadn’t allocated funds to pay for the program. 

Some estimates said the plan would cost $8 billion, and federal health officials were vague about how the government would pay for them. In one call with reporters, officials said the money would come from savings for another drug pricing program the Trump administration hadn’t created yet. 

Democrats in Congress criticized the plan as illegal and said Trump was trying to use it to sway votes in his favor. 

The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CMS, did not immediately respond to an email from Insider to confirm whether the cards were officially off the table. 

Read more: Trump’s Medicare chief has a big decision to make over whether doctors should be paid for phone calls and video visits. Here are the 3 biggest concerns she’s weighing over the future of healthcare.

Prescription drugs pharmacy

Customers shop for their medicines at a Wal-Mart pharmacy in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images


CMS actions on drug prices 

Verma, a close ally of Vice President Mike Pence, is one of the longest-serving officials in the Trump administration. 

She told Insider about the drug discount cards during a wide-ranging interview about her nearly four years overseeing Medicare, Medicaid, and the health insurance exchanges. Together, those programs pay for healthcare for more than 100 million people in the US.

The United States spends more on prescription drugs than any other developed nation, and polling shows that it’s a major issue of concern to voters.  The president promised since his 2016 campaign to lower prescription drug prices but ran into multiple legal and political challenges. 

Medicare premiums for prescription drugs went down under Verma’s tenure, even though pharmaceutical companies raised their prices overall. As Medicare chief, Verma also oversaw a program that caps the price of insulin to no more than $35 for seniors with diabetes. 

“That program could potentially be a model for the future,” she said. 

The incoming Biden administration and Democrats, who now have full -control of Congress have promised to crack down on drug prices too, though they face a tough road ahead due to industry opposition. 

President-elect Joe Biden and other Democrats support letting the government directly set drug prices. Last year the Democratic-controlled House passed a bill that would have allowed the government to regulate drug prices for some drugs and penalize companies that don’t comply. 

The Republican-controlled Senate did not take it up. Republicans in Congress oppose allowing the government to regulate prices, and Verma agrees. 

“Having the government be the sole arbitrator removes patient choice,” she said, “and could undermine access to important medications that beneficiaries need.” 

Read more: Healthcare stocks rose as Supreme Court sounds skeptical on killing Obamacare. Here are 4 analysts’ takeaways on the high-stakes lawsuit influencing the $3.6 trillion industry.

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