Meanwhile, at the end of last week, Charrow and his office instructed administration officials to seek guidance from the DOJ’s section on public integrity dealing with electoral crimes before proceeding with the drug rebate plan. It has further halted the plan as the health department awaits DOJ review, two officials said.
“Every day that passes is a minor day” to roll out the plan before the election, one of the officials said.
Charrow did not respond to a request for comment, and a spokesman for HHS said the department “does not comment on internal discussions.”
Trump announced the plan in a speech on Sept. 24, promising that the “incredible” cards would be sent to seniors in the “coming weeks,” and POLITICO detailed last week how administration officials like the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma rushed to realize the president’s vision. Meadows and Verma had hoped to get approval from legal and budget officials by October 9 to send letters to 39 million seniors this week praising the administration’s new initiative, according to five officials with knowledge of the plan and draft documents obtained by POLITICO . The cards themselves would be produced and distributed over the rest of the year, with many seniors receiving them after the election.
Enge and Verma have justified the drug cards as an authorized “test” of whether drug discount cards will ultimately help Medicare recipients more consistently take their drugs.
But the proposal has stalled since POLITICO’s report, as officials have tried to distance themselves from the plan and look for legal coverage such as the DOJ review, the people said with knowledge of current talks.
“This plan is rapidly becoming radioactive,” an official said of the proposal.
For example, Verma told allies she had some warning about Trump’s plan, according to two people who have spoken to her. A spokeswoman for Verma did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and his team have also spent weeks privately distanceing the proposal, suggesting the plan has been overseen by Medicare officials.
A spokesman for Azar said the secretary supports the Trump-backed plan. “As the architect of President Trump’s drug pricing plan and as a matter of policy, Secretary Azar has always been supportive of ideas for lowering U.S. seniors’ spending on drugs – including the president’s copay card proposal and the plan to deliver discounts directly to seniors at the pharmacy counter.” said the spokesman. The spokesman referred questions about the timing of the plan to Medicare officials.
The White House referred questions about the plan to the health department.
Congress Democrats this week requested that a watchdog, the government’s accountability office, initiate an immediate review of the drug rebate plan.
Since Trump announced the cards last month, which came as a surprise to many of his own health officials, career officials as well as political appointees have consistently warned that the plan could struggle with federal rules on spending taxpayers’ money or how to appropriately design a Medicare test. program.
To help the plan qualify as a Medicare test, Charrow has pressured officials to consider whether to randomize the rollout of the plan, which will ensure seniors get information at different times and make it easier to compare their responses, two said. officials with knowledge of Charrow’s concerns. . Legal and health experts have warned that the proposal is not a true test because it lacks random elements.
However, Trump is trying to give the cards to most seniors covered by Medicare’s drug plan, making it harder to compare the effects of getting a card versus not receiving a card.
Meanwhile, Verma’s team has been closely guarding the draft letter to seniors announcing the card’s rollout despite requests from other officials to review its contents and ensure it does not pose additional risks such as incorrect celebration of Trump’s role, two officials said.
But those private concerns have clashed with the president’s public promises as Trump continues to proclaim the initiative in an effort to support his diving approval rating with seniors.
“[M]”Less than 35 million Medicare recipients will soon receive a $ 200 card in the mail that you can use to pay for prescription drugs,” Trump promised again at an event, “Protecting America’s Seniors,” Friday afternoon in Florida.
Both Azar and Verma joined Trump for the speech.