09.15.20

Peters Presses Postmaster General DeJoy on Delivery Delays of Prescription Drugs

Peters’ Investigation Received Hundreds of Reports from Americans Who Experienced Delays in the Delivery of Their Medications

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is pressing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on how his recent actions have resulted in widespread delays in the delivery of medications for Michiganders and Americans. Peters has been leading the charge to demand answers on DeJoy’s recent operational changes that have caused significant mail delivery delays. In August, Peters launched an investigation after receiving misleading information from the Postal Service about the causes of the delays. Over the course of his investigation, Peters heard from individuals, many of them seniors and veterans, who have been left without critical medication for days due to mail delays. A group of 34 colleagues joined Peters in sending the letter.

“The National Association of Letter Carriers reported that the Postal Service delivers 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments each year – amounting to four million shipments every day, six days a week. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mail Order Pharmacy provides prescriptions to approximately 80 percent of all veterans via mail, processing 470,000 prescriptions daily,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators continued: “As Postal Service delays cause Americans to worry when, if at all, they will receive their next supply of medication in the mail, patients across the country may be forced to seek their prescriptions in person at a pharmacy—increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19 at a time when staying home is vital to their health and well-being. We call on you to immediately reverse all operational and organizational changes that have resulted in life-threatening delays of critical medications to Americans.”

As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led numerous efforts to protect the Postal Service and reverse recent changes that have caused significant delays. Peters helped secure an oversight hearing with Postmaster General DeJoy, where he grilled DeJoy on the changes he directed that caused significant service disruptions. Peters released an update on his investigation, outlining the serious impacts these delays have had on small businesses, as well as seniors, veterans, rural residents and others who count on the Postal Service for timely delivery. Additionally, Peters called on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to immediately reverse changes made by DeJoy that degrade or delay postal operations and mail delivery.

The text of the letter is copied below and available here

Dear Mr. DeJoy:

In your three months as U.S. Postmaster General, you have made detrimental operational and structural changes to the U.S. Postal Service. After facing criticism from members of Congress, states, and the public as well as lawsuits from multiple state attorneys general you announced the reversal of some—but not all—of these policies.  Damage from your decisions has already been done as Americans continue to experience potentially life-threatening delays in the delivery of prescription medications. These delays will continue to disproportionately harm the same individuals who are most at risk during the COVID-19 crisis, including seniors, people with chronic conditions, and people with disabilities.

While we hope that your recent policy reversals will curtail some of the harmful effects and delays we have seen, we continue to have grave concerns regarding widespread delays in the delivery of critical medications that millions of Americans rely upon every day. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now more important than ever for Americans to have safe and timely access to their medications from their homes. For years, Americans have entrusted the Postal Service to deliver essential goods—yet during this public health crisis, a number of Americans continue to await needed medications that are lost or delayed in the mail.

The Postal Service is an essential public institution that must uphold its duty to serve every community. Your recently implemented changes pose an unacceptable threat and continue to have a devastating effect on communities that rely on consistent access to medication through the mail. We have received numerous reports from seniors about delays in receiving their prescriptions through the mail, leaving some without life-sustaining medication for days. Others have been forced to obtain emergency prescriptions from their doctors and pay out-of-pocket for medication because their original prescriptions covered by insurance never arrived.

The National Association of Letter Carriers reported that the Postal Service delivers 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments each year – amounting to four million shipments every day, six days a week. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mail Order Pharmacy provides prescriptions to approximately 80 percent of all veterans via mail, processing 470,000 prescriptions daily. Despite these figures, “prescription medication can only be as effective as a patient’s ability to access it.”

The Postal Service’s role in delivering medications to Americans has only grown during the COVID-19 crisis. When COVID-19 stay-at-home orders began in March, mail-order prescriptions reportedly increased by 21 percent from the year prior. What was previously a routine visit to the pharmacy now places millions of Americans at an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises Americans to “limit in-person visits to the pharmacy” and, if possible, to use drive-thru windows, mail-order, or other delivery services to pick up medications. As Postal Service delays cause Americans to worry when, if at all, they will receive their next supply of medication in the mail, patients across the country may be forced to seek their prescriptions in person at a pharmacy—increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19 at a time when staying home is vital to their health and well-being.

We call on you to immediately reverse all operational and organizational changes that have resulted in life-threatening delays of critical medications to Americans. As you noted, “it is imperative for the Postal Service to operate efficiently and effectively, while continuing to provide service that meets the needs of [its] customers.” Right now, the Postal Service is failing to meet the needs of many Americans and adhere to its mission of “prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas.” As we continue to fight this pandemic, the Postal Service is integral to keeping millions of Americans safe, especially seniors, people with chronic conditions, and people with disabilities.

To that end, please provide the following information by September 21, 2020:

  • What considerations did you give to mail-order medications before implementing the recent operational and structural changes throughout the Postal Service?

  • What, if any, actions did you take to prevent potential delays in the delivery of mail-order medications? If you made no specific adjustments or considerations, please explain why.

  • What steps, if any, does the Postal Service intend to take to address existing delays in the delivery of mail-ordered prescriptions that have occurred as a result of the operational and structural changes you implemented?

  • Please identify the operational and structural changes implemented during your tenure that you plan to reverse.
    • a. Please explain how you decided which changes to reverse, as well as your rationale for each reversal.
    • b. Do you plan to re-implement any of these changes after the November 2020 election? If so, what safeguards will you put in place to avoid significant mail delays and keep Americans safe?

  • Please identify the operational and structural changes implemented during your tenure that you chose not to reverse.
    • a. Please explain your justification for each decision.
    • b. Please explain the consequences these changes could have for the ability of Americans to receive their medications in a timely and consistent manner through the mail, and whether the Postal Service has adopted safeguards to address these issues.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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