National Consumers League

Compromised access to the USPS could result in worsened health outcomes

Aug 24, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, is today expressing concern about recent cuts to funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the impact this has on consumers’ access to critical lifesaving medications.

The USPS has already suffered setbacks due to deteriorating financial conditions, and most recently the significant delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The vulnerable agency is now caught in the middle of political strife as the President ponders withholding funding for the USPS in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation, in order to impede mail-in voting. The USPS is an essential service, and consumers rely on these services daily to pay their rent, receive wages and Social Security checks, and most importantly, receive prescription medications via mail-order pharmacies.   

These developments have grave ramifications for older Americans, and particularly veterans, of whom 80 percent receive their medications through mail-order pharmacies, 90 percent of which are delivered via the USPS. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proprietary mail-order pharmacy system, the Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP), consists of a group of seven automated hub pharmacies. The CMOP processes nearly 500,000 prescriptions daily, and ships packages to more than 330,000 veterans each working day.

The VA has stated that changes in the USPS have delayed medication deliveries by 25 percent in the last year, and has experienced an influx of mail-order prescriptions as entry to VA facilities have been limited to curb the spread of COVID-19. Veterans in rural or remote areas often rely exclusively on mail-order prescriptions, and as older Americans are cautioned to quarantine and social distance throughout the pandemic, ensuring timely access to medication is ever more imperative. The VA is currently rushing to mitigate potential delays by temporarily converting its deliveries from USPS to UPS 2nd Day Air or FedEx. Additionally, the VA will set up a specialized USPS code, to help prioritize veteran prescription deliveries.

The VA has advised patients to request refills for their medications at least 10 days before their treatment course ends, to ensure timely delivery of medications. Disruptions in medication deliveries caused by a lack of funding to the USPS could drastically impact overall health outcomes and medication adherence. As the country navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that our most vulnerable have timely and adequate access to the medications they need to maintain their health and avert potential progression of disease.

The National Consumers League stands with the United States Postal Service workers, as they tirelessly work to provide essential services during these challenging times. We call on Congress to hold the Administration accountable to ensure that consumers maintain access to the essential USPS services on which they depend.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.