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Something for something (Update: A good question, but the wrong question)

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The DOPUS recently announced that some Medicare beneficiaries will receive discount cards worth $200 – or 26% of what he paid in taxes the last time he bothered – that they can use to pay for prescriptions.

In his remarks, Trump called the discount cards a “historic provision to benefit our great seniors.” He said 33 million people on Medicare “will soon receive a card in the mail containing $200 that they can use to help pay for prescription drugs.

I forget, is “soon” more or less time than “two weeks”?

The GOP’s latest, greatest nightmare also accidentally told the truth when he added “Nobody’s seen this before.” That is, no one has seen a political party that insists there’s no money for anything (except bailouts for the obscenely rich) attempt to wreck Medicare and succeed in damaging the USPS to the point that it can’t deliver prescription meds, then turn around and claim it is going to use the USPS to deliver $6.6 billion worth of Medicare funds that might never exist to about half of the people on Medicare because the president is a damp little man who clogs a toilet every time his tiny brain realizes he might have to leave the White House.

In typical Republican fashion, the money which did exist five seconds ago will appear out of thin air. But the latest revelations about DJT’s finances just make this fumble fingered shell game funnier.

… funding for the cards would come from savings from a program the administration has proposed. That experimental program would tie the price of some drugs covered by Medicare to the lower prices available in several other countries where those governments have power to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies.

I assume the program in question is contained the proposed rule for a demonstration project that’s been sitting on the OMB dashboard for more than a year: International Pricing Index Model For Medicare Part B Drugs.

I’ll spare everyone the excitement the wild worlds of how proposed rules become policy and what even is a CMS demonstration project and say that this goes beyond “The check’s in the mail,” and lands deep in the territory of “I’m having new checks printed by my bank. That doesn’t exist yet.”

How much thought and planning went into this plan? The usual amount.

One White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said the idea of a drug discount card was a “last-minute thing that is still being worked out” and originated in the office of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Because no one in the administration knew about prescription drug costs and how hard it can be for people – especially seniors – to afford them until right before he lurched out on stage, I guess.

Or “last minute” also has a different meaning in the Republican Zone. And maybe the money is coming from another source.

The announcement came as a surprise because the White House had tried last month to strike a deal with the pharmaceutical industry on a broad effort to lower drug prices. But that deal collapsed after Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, insisted that the industry pay for such cards. The companies balked, fearing that they would be footing the bill for the “Trump cards” aimed at older American voters.

That’s exactly what they would have been, but not only did pharmaceutical companies see through the cunning plan, they refused to take part. They also got the administration to withdraw an earlier Part B drug demonstration before it was launched.

But in an appearance on CNN, Mr. Meadows suggested — without offering an explanation — that pharmaceutical manufacturers would still pay for the cards, which he said older Americans would begin receiving in October.

He did not say which October.

In addition to matters of funding, fulfillment isn’t exactly the GOP’s strong suit, because that involves things you can’t fake. Either some Medicare patients will get this card – probably with you-know-what’s grimacing mug on it – or they won’t. Either the cards will work – for example, patients can keep using it to cover copays until it runs out, and pharmacies will be able process them – or they won’t. Either the bribe will work, or it won’t.

Update – several people have asked whether $200 for prescription drugs will amount to much of a savings. Great question, but the wrong question, or at least it’s too early to ask because there aren’t enough details, starting with who exactly would receive the cards/coupons if they ever get past the MT Promises stage and actually go in an envelope.

33 million Medicare beneficiaries doesn’t cover everyone on traditional Medicare or everyone who has Medicare Part D. Whether the money is going to some traditional-only patients for the handful of prescription drugs that are covered, or some Part D patients, would determine which drugs might be covered, which is something you need to know before you can begin to figure out how far $200 will go.

If – as is likely the case – he pulled the number past his head, that’s a sign that this idea is still in the infrastructure week stages and is likely to remain so. The elderly that Republicans have been urging to drop dead already should be grateful that they spent five seconds discussing an idea that would benefit them, vote Republican. And THEN drop dead.

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