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With millions relying on USPS for medication deliveries, some worry about delays

Posted at 1:22 PM, Aug 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 16:48:05-04

Mail delivery is something just about everyone depends on, but for millions of Americans, mail services are a vital lifeline for health.

“Levothyroxine which is a thyroid medication, I've taken this probably 40 years,” 87-year-old Barbara Raizen said. She takes multiple medications. “I right now live in a senior residence, I live in independent living.”

She relies on the Postal Service for a lot of reasons, one being her medications.

“It’s cheaper, it’s cheaper than the drug store, it’s cheaper than King Soopers,” she said. “And you know, every dollar counts.”

That and it’s difficult for her to leave, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“If we go out we have to come back and be quarantined for two weeks,” Raizen said.

Millions share similar concerns as the U.S. Postal Service deals with increased demand, lower processing capacity, and potential cost cutting.

“It’s really a problem,” Raizen said. “If the prescription runs out, I have to call the doctor and he calls it back in but it comes by mail and it takes 7 to 10 days or more to get it.”

“It’s both the increase in volume and the decrease in the processing capacity,” said Jeannette Song, an operations management expert and Duke University professor. “Many more people ordered online, so that increased the volume for the postal services.”

The National Association of Letter Carriers said the Postal Service handles 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments a year, nearly 4 million every day. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 14 million people relied on mail order pharmacies for at least one prescription in 2018.

“At each step, the process has its capacity,” Song said. “It’s multistage processing, so this is a journey of that. Certainly each step takes some time.”

While USPS is experiencing strains right now, she said this happens other times, too.

“Holidays,” she said. “Usually get delays, it’s just the same thing”

With all the debates going on over cost cutting and the current pressures on the Postal Service, millions are worried. Some taking to Twitter to share their story under the #USPSMeds hashtag.

“The post office is important,” Sandy Reavey said. She also relies on the Postal Service for her medications. “It’s just easier. You don't have to go and stand in line at the pharmacy, and it can be cheaper because you can get a three month supply versus doing it every month and having to go back every month to the pharmacy.”

She added that especially right now, not everyone necessarily wants to stand in a line with a bunch of people.

She receives multiple medications through the mail.

“If I don’t take the medication, it causes my heart to go out of whack and could cause me to have a heart attack or a stroke.”

As debates continue over Postal Service overtime and other cost cutting measures, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has promised to suspend for now. Sandy and Barbara continue hoping their medications make it on time.

“Growing up I’ve already trusted their mail service to deliver and not tamper with my mail,” Reavey said.

“What are you supposed to do? Can’t do everything online,” Raizen said.