Mail delays caused by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service are endangering the health of millions of Americans by significantly slowing deliveries of life-saving prescription medications for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other serious ailments.
That’s according to new report (pdf) released Wednesday by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), whose investigation into mail-order prescription delays revealed that major pharmacies have experienced slowdowns in the delivery of medications since DeJoy—a Republican megadonor to President Donald Trump—took charge of the Postal Service in June.
“We know Louis DeJoy is sabotaging the Postal Service—and our investigation reveals his scheming has slowed the delivery of mail-order prescription drugs, threatening health risks for millions of Americans during a pandemic,” Warren said in a statement. “Our report is more evidence that Louis DeJoy’s tenure has been a failure. He needs to resign and if he won’t, the Board of Governors must remove him.”
The senators’ probe examined the impact DeJoy’s mail service changes have had on five pharmacies—Cigna/Express Scripts, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, UnitedHealth/Optum, and Humana—four of which are described as “heavily reliant” on the Postal Service for deliveries to patients. The report does not specify which pharmacies largely rely on USPS.
While the one pharmacy that depends mostly on private carriers for deliveries reported “not experiencing any unusual delays,” the other four pharmacies told Warren and Casey that they have “experienced an average increase in delivery time of approximately half a day or more relative to 2019 or early 2020.”
“This represents a significant delay, increasing delivery times by 18-32%,” the report notes. “In general, this meant that deliveries that would typically take 2-3 days were instead taking 3-4 days.”
The pharmacies stressed that many patients saw “much longer delays,” with some reporting “shipment delays of seven days or more.” One pharmacy said it has “seen an increase in the number of prescription orders taking significantly longer to deliver than our target time frames.”
“The number of orders taking over five days to deliver has risen dramatically since the onset of the pandemic,” the pharmacy told Warren and Casey. “We are currently seeing an increase in our calls, complaints, and reship requests due to concerns with receiving orders in a timely fashion and/or questions about USPS issues in general.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, at least 14 million Americans enrolled in either Medicare Part D or large employer plans used mail-order pharmacies for at least one prescription in 2018, and reliance on the USPS for medicine deliveries has only grown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Casey, ranking member of the Senate Aging Committee, said in a statement “the steps that this administration and Postmaster General DeJoy have taken to undermine the Postal Service have jeopardized the health and well-being of millions of Americans who rely on timely delivery of their prescriptions via the Postal Service.”
“This report shows what we have feared all along—that Postmaster DeJoy’s efforts are having real, potentially life-threatening, consequences for people that depend on the Postal Service,” said Casey. “The Postal Service Board of Governors must hold the Postmaster General accountable for this sabotage and Congress must provide emergency USPS funding.”
Three weeks ago, @SenBobCasey & I asked mail-order pharmacies about @USPS delivery problems under Louis DeJoy. We found big delays that threaten millions of people’s health during this pandemic, & higher costs that could be passed along to taxpayers. https://t.co/7e5YF6jwa9— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) September 9, 2020
Warren and Casey summarize their findings in a letter (pdf) sent Wednesday to the Trump-friendly USPS Board of Governors, which unanimously appointed DeJoy in May despite his numerous potential conflicts of interest and complete lack of experience working for the Postal Service.
Describing DeJoy’s mail changes as a grave threat to “families that rely on the Postal Service for the delivery of life-sustaining medications,” the senators call on the board to immediately reverse “any and all actions taken during Postmaster General DeJoy’s tenure that degrade or delay postal operations and the delivery of the mail.”
“These delays are unacceptable outcomes under any circumstances, but are made even worse by the ongoing pandemic,” Warren and Casey write. “The findings of our investigation reveal that your failure to fix the service delays caused by Postmaster General DeJoy represent an ongoing public health threat and a dereliction of your responsibility to the American public.”