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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.

Go deeper

Instacart in the spotlight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Grocery delivery company Instacart became a critical service for many consumers overnight when cities and states across the U.S. quickly implemented stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Why it matters: The pandemic reportedly brought the company its first profits.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.