Duckworth presses for continued Saturday delivery of prescription meds

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USPS announces 5-day delivery schedule starting in August

Citing concern for patients who rely on low-cost mail delivery of prescription medications, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and 88 House members sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe urging continued 6-day prescription drug delivery. The lawmakers were responding to Donahoe’s February 6 announcement that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will move to a 5-day delivery schedule beginning in August 2013.

“Many of the Americans who benefit most from 6-day delivery are veterans who have sacrificed a great deal for our country and senior citizens who helped build this country,” Duckworth told pharmacist.com.

In the letter to Donahoe, Duckworth explained that homebound older persons who cannot walk or drive to the pharmacy, veterans living in rural areas with limited access to the prescription drugs they need, and persons with disabilities “cannot afford to go without their medications for days … nor should they have to obtain their medications through more costly delivery methods, which would only draw business away from the USPS and threaten its long-term financial stability.”

Home delivery is the most cost-effective way to fill prescriptions for TRICARE beneficiaries and saved the government $33 million in fiscal year 2010 alone, according to Duckworth, who supports postal service reforms.

USPS lost almost $16 billion in 2012, and a 5-day delivery schedule would save USPS about $2 billion a year by requiring fewer staff hours and less equipment needed to maintain deliveries, Donahoe said in his February announcement. Donahoe emphasized, however, that packages would continue to be delivered 6 days a week.

Duckworth’s letter requested further clarification on which classes of services and formal definitions of packages would be considered. “Some medications are mailed in small plastic envelopes that don’t fit the traditional definition of package,” the letter noted, “while others are mailed through first-class service and thus, may be eliminated on Saturdays.” She asked USPS to examine all the ways in which prescription drugs are mailed through USPS and exempt them from the 5-day delivery schedule.

Other lawmakers have criticized USPS’s plan to end Saturday delivery, including Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), who recently took USPS to task for failing to respond to a January letter asking how 5-day delivery would save the agency money.

In mid-February, Connolly turned to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), requesting its legal opinion on whether a 2013 resolution “continues a provision in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2012 requiring USPS to maintain 6-day delivery and rural delivery of mail at not less than the 1983 level.” USPS had asserted that the provision did not apply because it appropriated no funds to USPS. In a March 21 reply, GAO stated that “absent specific legislative language, a continuing resolution maintains the status quo regarding government funding and operations” and that USPS does not have the authority to make the change without congressional approval.

Although Duckworth had not received a reply from USPS as of March 29, she will continue to advocate for Saturday prescription delivery on behalf of older adults, military personnel, veterans, and persons with disabilities. “I am committed to making sure that at the very least, 6-day delivery of prescriptions is preserved,” Duckworth said.

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