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Trump's plan to send out $200 election bribes to seniors is already falling apart

Trump's plan to send out $200 election bribes to seniors is already falling apart
Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, joined by President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Sunday, April 19, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Remember Donald Trump's big "healthcare plan" from three weeks ago? The one that did nothing except promise a bribe to seniors in the form of $200 cash cards to be used to by their prescriptions? We subsequently found out that he had sprung that brilliant plan on his administration officials, who were tasked with figuring out and implementing what is now estimated to be an $8 billion plan by November 3.

That won't happen, not for the majority of the 33 million cards that will need to be sent, the Wall Street Journal reports. In addition to the $8 billion that they're taking out of Medicare to pay the $200 per beneficiary, this is going to cost taxpayers $20 million just in administrative costs to print and send 33 million letters telling seniors to look for the cards eventually. They can't get the cards out in time to bribe seniors for the votes, so they'll try it with these letters.

It seems they haven't entirely determined exactly who is going to be getting these cards. The WSJ source says that it would be lower-income Medicare beneficiaries who don't already get financial assistance for prescriptions. The money will probably come out of "two Medicare trust funds, according to the administration official. It would run out of a CMS office that tests new models for providing or paying for health care." That program was created to run demonstration projects to find more efficient and cost-effective ways of delivering care without effecting quality. Sending $200 to a huge bunch of people without a real plan beyond "give them Trump money" isn't really what the program was designed for. At all. But the administration official is doing his or her best to sell it, telling the WSJ that it "could be designed to test if people are more adherent to medications if they are given a discount."

Of course they're not going into this to try to figure out what's the best way to help people adhere to a medication schedule. They're not going to identify a control group to test against, or conduct interviews with recipients. They're going to spend $8.2 billion of Medicare funding that could have gone to a real program to find ways to improve Medicare and senior health. Instead it's on this folly of Trump's, an attempt to shore up the base of older voters who are abandoning him because he's so fucked up the coronavirus response.

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