Trump’s $200 Medicare Drug Cards Expected to Be Mailed Jan. 1

The Trump administration expects to begin sending $200 prescription drug discount cards to seniors by Jan. 1, a campaign promise to seniors that President Donald Trump was unable to fulfill before losing re-election, a person familiar with the matter said.

A White House official described the time line for distributing the cards to Medicare beneficiaries, asking not to be identified discussing internal planning. Politico reported late Monday that an obscure industry panel that advises the Internal Revenue Service on administering benefit cardsabruptly dropped its opposition to the drug cards.

Trump announced the program – which is expected to cost at least $6.6 billion – in late September, promising the cards for Medicare recipients would be mailed out “in coming weeks.”

“Nobody has seen this before. These cards are incredible,” Trump said.

Democrats called the program an outright attempt to buy votes from elderly people, and White House aides conceded that the effort was hastily assembled ahead of Election Day. The cards encountered objections within the administration, consigning them to a list of other election-year promises — an overhaul of the immigration system, a replacement for Obamacare — that never materialized before Trump’s defeat by former Vice President Joe Biden.

The approval Monday by the Special Interest Group for Inventory Information Approval System Standards – a panel known as SIGIS that primarily assists the federal government with the use of debit cards for tax-exempt medical expenses – cleared the way for the distribution of the cards, according to the White House official. Trump has said 33 million Medicare beneficiaries could receive the benefit, which can be used for prescription drug co-payments.

Politico reported that SIGIS had initially blocked the issuance of the cards and that despite weeks of pressure from the White House and Treasury Department, the panel’s approval surprised some administration officials.

The White House has said the program is a legal “test” allowed under a provision of the Medicare program that allows the federal government to experiment with methods to improve medical outcomes and lower costs.

Democrats have called for an expedited independent review of the program, questioning its legal authority.

“After four years of empty promises to lower drug prices for the American people, the president now appears to be attempting to buy votes just weeks before the election using taxpayer dollars,” Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, said in a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar after the program’s announcement.

HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

— With assistance by Josh Wingrove

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