Trump introduced on Sept. 24 that Medicare recipients would obtain “unimaginable” $200 playing cards within the “coming weeks,” blindsiding his personal aides and sparking a hasty attempt to hurry announcement letters and playing cards to 39 million Medicare beneficiaries earlier than Election Day. The president latched onto the plan to decrease Medicare beneficiaries’ drug prices at the same time as his support plunged amongst older Individuals, with polls displaying that challenger Joe Biden had opened a double-digit lead among Americans ages 65 and older.
However the taxpayer-funded $7.9 billion plan, obtained by POLITICO, rapidly bumped into authorized and logistical hurdles. The well being division’s prime lawyer warned in an internal memo that Trump’s plan might violate the regulation through the use of taxpayer funds in such a vogue so near Election Day and advisable that the Justice Division overview the proposal. An business consortium that helps the IRS govern digital transactions at point-of-sale repeatedly rebuffed the administration’s plan, saying it was inconsistent with how different profit playing cards have been administered.
In the meantime, Democrats known as the initiative a political stunt to spice up Trump’s approval amongst older Individuals, and the Authorities Accountability Workplace agreed to review the program’s legality. Drug coverage researchers panned the thought, saying it was a poor use of Medicare funds and would do little to cut back Medicare recipients’ medical prices.
Even because the plan stumbled, White Home officers repeatedly insisted to reporters that the playing cards have been nonetheless forthcoming. Bloomberg reported last month that the White Home anticipated the playing cards to be mailed by Jan. 1.
However well being division officers mentioned that the timeline was by no means life like, given the sheer variety of unresolved points.
For example, the identical Treasury Division staff engaged on the drug-discount playing cards was additionally tapped to ship out the stimulus checks included in Congress’ year-end relief package, delaying their work for days. In the meantime, MetaBank, which the Trump administration had approached to assist disburse the required funds, sought to be indemnified for greater than $1 billion in case of a lawsuit, mentioned two officers, which sparked a brand new debate amongst authorities legal professionals.
MetaBank referred inquiries to the Treasury Division, which did not reply to requests for remark.
A number of Trump appointees concerned in steering the undertaking, together with former White Home financial official Theo Merkel, even have departed the administration since December, additional slowing the hassle.
In the meantime, some Trump officers started questioning whether or not the Trump administration was dashing to put the groundwork for announcement letters and playing cards that could not be despatched till February or March and would exit bearing Biden’s title as a substitute. That might have conflicted with Trump’s personal characterization of the plan.
“I’ll all the time deal with our great senior residents,” Trump mentioned on Sept. 24 when he unveiled his deliberate playing cards. “Joe Biden will not be doing this.”