Warren and Casey haven’t identified the pharmacies, but their report comes nearly three weeks after they asked Walgreens, CVS, and other pharmacies and benefit managers to detail the effects of DeJoy’s changes to the postal service. This summer, DeJoy implemented policies to reduce overtime and postal travel, which postal couriers say have led to delays nationwide.
Four prescription drug suppliers told Warren and Casey that delivery times this summer have increased by half a day or more, on average, from earlier this year or similar time periods in 201
“These delays have been unacceptable under all circumstances, but are also exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, which has increased demand for mail-order drugs as many Americans are hit with stay-at-home orders or choose to stay home to stay safe.” , wrote the senators in a letter to the board of governors of the postal service.
The delays in medicine, in some cases, appear to have started around May, when DeJoy was chosen for the job but before he officially took over. The timeline raises the possibility that the coronavirus pandemic may have contributed to slowing prescription drugs being mailed, particularly as patients strain the system by going from in-person pickup to delivery.
A USPS spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Warren and Casey still lay much of the blame on DeJoy, pointing to his earlier argument that the agency’s new practices “shouldn’t have impacted anyone.” Investigators noted that their investigation showed that only one of the pharmacies contacted had not experienced significant outages over the summer and that the supplier said it did not rely on USPS. The company isn’t named in the report, but Walgreens said in a separate statement that only a “very small percentage” of its prescriptions are handled by the postal service.
Warren and Casey urged the USPS board of directors to act immediately, pointing out that its “failure to resolve service delays caused by Postmaster General DeJoy poses an ongoing public health threat and neglect of your liability to the American public “. Warren added in a statement that DeJoy should resign or be fired.
The Democrats’ findings in the Senate threaten to add to the headache DeJoy is already facing, whose changes to the mail service in the name of austerity have sparked widespread suspicion and condemnation. Leading House Democrats opened their investigations on Monday, focusing on reports that DeJoy urged his former company employees to make donations to GOP candidates, then raised their pay. Lawmakers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee have raised the possibility that DeJoy had deceived them under oath.
Congressional scrutiny began almost as soon as DeJoy assumed the title of postmaster on June 15. President Trump’s ally and former major Republican fundraiser began trying to straighten the budget of the USPS, which has amassed $ 160.9 billion in debt amid declining first-class mail delivery and soaring cost of retirement benefits.
But DeJoy’s initiatives, including planned service cuts and mailbox removals, have sparked backlash particularly among Democrats, who feared it could undermine the 2020 presidential election, particularly as Trump has openly sought to discredit the vote. by mail, claiming without evidence that it will lead to rampant fraud.
DeJoy announced last month that it would suspend some of its significant changes to mail processing and delivery until after the election, but its efforts have barely appeased its congressional critics. The Democrats say they have heard an ear from the constituents, many of whom have not received their deliveries on time. This includes a wave of patients who have had trouble getting their prescription drugs through the USPS in the midst of a pandemic, Warren and Casey said.
To consider the matter, the two Democrats sent letters last month to Cigna Corp., which owns Express Scripts; CVS Health; UnitedHealth Group, which owns OptumHealth; Humana; and the parent company for Walgreens and Duane Reade.
T.J. Crawford, a spokesman for Aetna, said the company hadn’t seen the results of lawmakers but argued as part of a Washington coalition to fund emergency relief efforts for USPS. Mark Mathis, a spokesperson for Humana, said the company “is seeing an increase in small package shipping volumes in the United States, impacting all couriers.” And Drew Krejci, a spokesperson for Optum, said they “continuously monitor our shipments and make any necessary changes.” The companies did not answer questions about the extent to which the USPS changes might have created problems.
Other pharmacies and benefit managers did not respond to requests for comment.
Lawmakers have asked companies to provide information on the number of customers who receive their prescriptions in the mail, the average time it takes for them to ship, and the extent to which recent changes to the postal service policy have caused new delays for customers or costs to companies.
One company told Senate investigators that its average turnaround time increased to 3.6 days in July, up from 2.7 days last year. Another estimated that it took an average of 3.2 days for prescriptions to be delivered in July, compared to 2.7 days in 2019. A third shared that the number of prescriptions taking more than five days to arrive it has “increased dramatically” since the pandemic began.
The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, a nonprofit organization questioned by lawmakers, responded that it has not experienced widespread disruption because its members rely on special services, such as refrigeration, which USPS does not provide. But Julie Allen, one of the group’s top attorneys, said in an interview that she heard scattered reports of the delays, particularly affecting patients needing a weekend birth or those in rural areas.
“We have a couple of anecdotal events for members who have noticed a slowdown particularly in the period between March and July,” Allen said, adding that it was impossible to tell whether the difficulties, some of which preceded DeJoy, were a result of the pandemic or changes.
The delays still threaten to put seniors, veterans and other Americans at risk of missing out on much-needed medications, Democratic lawmakers said. They also created headaches for pharmacies, including one that told Senate leaders it received a fourfold increase in customer calls and mail-order drug inquiries between May and August. Another said it had an 80% spike in drug shipments in July, totaling about $ 700,000 in costs, according to the report.
In response, Warren and Casey sent a separate letter to the supervisory board that oversees the USPS, urging it to “act quickly to reverse these errors in service.”
“As a member of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, you have both the responsibility and the authority to solve this growing problem.”