Sep 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate Democratic probe finds mail-order pharmacies reported USPS drug delivery delays

An arm puts a letter into a USPS mail box

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

An investigation by Senate Democrats published Wednesday found that there were "significant" U.S. Postal Service delays this summer for mail-order prescription drugs, according to information provided by five major pharmacies.

Why it matters: Demand for mailed prescriptions has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, per the report by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

  • The investigation, first reported by the Washington Post, questioned Cigna, CVS Health, Walgreens, United Health and Humana.

What they found: Four of the companies said that their mail-order pharmacies' delivery times generally took three to four days instead of two to three days, although one company described "delays of seven days or more" for patients in July.

  • "The number of orders taking over five days to deliver has risen dramatically since the onset of the pandemic," another unnamed pharmacy told the senators.
  • One company reported $700,000 in additional costs in July from increased reshipments and service delays.

The big picture: The investigation comes amid worries that the USPS will not be able to handle increased volumes of mail-in ballots driven by the pandemic.

  • On-time delivery for priority mail declined sharply from July to August, per an internal briefing for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released last month by the House Oversight Committee.
  • The USPS' internal watchdog found some unresolved issues within the agency that could impact its ability to efficiently process and deliver election mail, according to an audit published last week.

What they're saying: "Our workforce, like many others, have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, which has resulted in certain service disruptions," USPS public relations manager Dave Partenheimer said in an email. "We are aggressively working to ensure full service coverage across the network, including increasing hiring based on local needs and improving process flows."

Read the report.

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