Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY
Published 11:53 a.m. ET Sept. 9, 2020 | Updated 12:29 p.m. ET Sept. 9, 2020
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WASHINGTON — A report released Wednesday by two Democratic senators found “significant and increasing delays” in the mail delivery of prescription drugs under the tenure of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
The lawmakers in charge of the investigation – Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – said some of the nation’s largest pharmacies told them they were experiencing, on average, delivery delays of 18-32%, meaning deliveries that would normally take 1-2 days would instead take 3-4 days, the report concluded.
The senators said the delays could pose “serious health risks to millions of Americans and (increase) costs for consumers and taxpayers.”
Only one of the five companies surveyed by the senators’ staff said they had not experienced “unusual” delays, but the company told the senators fewer than 1% of their packages are handled by “for end-to-end delivery.”
The senators’ staff started the investigation on Aug. 20 amid media reports of delays in prescription deliveries.
The delays drew complaints and concerns from customers about their deliveries, the report said, and the reshipment of prescriptions were incurring large costs for the pharmacies. One company reported $700,000 in extra costs in July alone in reshipment costs, an 80% increase from its average reshipment costs.
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The findings come as an increasing number of Americans filled prescriptions by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 170 million prescriptions were filled by mail in 2019, according to the report, and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents pharmaceutical benefit managers, reported a 17% increase in mailed prescriptions in March 2020 compared to March 2019.
The senators linked DeJoy’s leadership to the delivery delays, pointing to his remarks before the House Oversight Committee on Aug. 24 that changes at the agency and the subsequent mail delays “should not have impacted anybody.”
Warren said the report showed there “was more evidence that (DeJoy’s) tenure has been a failure” and called for his resignation or removal by the Postal Board of Governors, which oversees the agency.
USPS delays have also caused a big jump in prescription reshipments & higher costs to send with @USPS competitors. Those costs could end up being passed along to consumers & the federal government, which covers prescription drugs under Medicare, Medicaid, & other programs.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) September 9, 2020
The Postal Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DeJoy acknowledged delays in the delivery of mail in testimony before lawmakers last month, but said the Postal Service was working to fix the delays.
“We are fixing this,” he told lawmakers.
The Postal Service has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers over controversies over mail delays and DeJoy’s leadership. In an effort to cut costs, DeJoy, a major Republican donor, made some operational changes at the Postal Service like limiting late deliveries and cracking down on overtime pay that resulted in delays in service across the country.
Democrats alleged the delays in service could hinder the agency’s ability to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots this November and said the delays could be linked to President Donald Trump’s opposition to mail-in ballots.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concern that mail delays could harm communities that rely on the Postal Service to receive prescriptions and other packages.
DeJoy told lawmakers in August he pledged to deliver all election mail on time and slammed what he called a “false narrative” that Postal Service changes had been made to disrupt the election.
Under criticism from both sides over mail delays, DeJoy suspended some operational changes in August but said he would resume cost-cutting measures, including the effort to improve delivery times, until after the election on Nov. 3.
The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed DeJoy in an effort to legally compel the release of documents and information earlier this month, alleging a lack of cooperation in their investigations into mail delays.
In a statement at the time, the Postal Service said it was “frankly surprised and confused” by the news about the subpoena given their previous cooperation with lawmakers but would “comply with our obligations under the law.”
The House Oversight Committee said it would open an investigation into his political donations amid allegations he pressured employees at his former company to make political donations to Republicans and then reimbursed them, a “straw donor” scheme that could violate campaign finance laws.
Asked Monday if he would support an investigation into DeJoy, Trump said he would, though he called DeJoy “a very respected man” and “a very honest guy.”
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