October 13,2020

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Wyden, Pallone, Neal Call for Investigation into the Legality of Trump’s Drug Discount Card Political Stunt

Democratic Health Leaders Question Motive and Legality of Administration’s Reported Plan to Send One-Time Drug Discount Cards Instead of Lowering Drug Prices, Wasting Taxpayer Dollars on Advertising Letter

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) demanded more information on the Trump Administration’s plan to send $200 “Trump cards” to Medicare beneficiaries in the weeks before Election Day. In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, the Democratic leaders expressed their concerns with the thinly veiled political stunt and the questionable legality of the program. They sent another letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Gene Dodaro requesting an expedited review of the legality of the plan. 

Prescription drug prices have risen dramatically throughout President Trump’s term. After years of bowing to the pharmaceutical industry on drug prices, Trump is now resorting to a legally dubious gimmick ahead of Election Day that does nothing to help the underlying struggle with health costs facing American families. The lawmakers also questioned the Trump Administration’s plan to tout the cards in a letter to 39 million Medicare beneficiaries as early as next this week, which would cost $19 million in administrative costs alone, according to recent press reports

“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,” wrote the Democratic leaders to Secretary Azar. “Exploiting the very real health needs of Medicare beneficiaries in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic that has claimed 210,000 American lives is not only cruel, but raises serious legal questions about the misuse of taxpayer dollars to improperly influence the approaching election.”

The lawmakers continued: “To be clear, drug prices for seniors under Medicare have increased dramatically on the President’s watch. Last year alone, more than 3,400 drugs reportedly saw price increases, with an average increase of five times the rate of inflation. Even if the issuance of Trump cards were legal, which, to be clear, we do not think they are, these cards would not make up for the Trump Administration’s failure to address drug pricing in a meaningful way over the last four years, and nothing to lower the federal government’s spending on prescription drugs.”

In their letter to GAO, the three Committee leaders wrote that they do not believe that section 402 of the Social Security Amendments of 1967 provides the Administration authority to proceed with this drug card demonstration.  

“We are further concerned about the legality and propriety of these actions, particularly in light of recent press reports indicating that the timing of this project is being driven by the upcoming presidential election,” Pallone, Neal and Wyden wrote to Dodaro. “Accordingly, we respectfully request an expedited review of this matter.”  

Read the letter to HHS Secretary Azar HERE.

Read the letter to GAO Comptroller General Dodaro HERE.