Jeanette Contreras portrait

2021 rings in new health care protections for consumers

By NCL Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras

Surprise medical bills occur when patients unknowingly receive care from a provider who is not in their health insurance plan’s network. As the first COVID-19 vaccinations are administered, Congress has passed landmark legislation to ensure consumers needn’t worry about surprise medical bills from emergency medical services.

The passage of this legislation couldn’t come soon enough, as more than 476,000 Americans hospitalized with the coronavirus have already incurred exorbitant medical debt from COVID-19 treatment. Now, thankfully, 2020 will come to a close with renewed optimism in the American health care system.

This new law will also protect consumers from surprise billing from out-of-network ambulance and air ambulance trips, which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Most patients are conscientious consumers, careful to find a doctor that accepts their insurance before making an appointment. However, in the case of an emergency, a patient faces the possibility of receiving care from an out-of-network doctor in an out-of-network hospital.

As Congress debated legislative fixes to surprise billing, the Administration showed political will toward finding a solution with the issuance of Executive Order 13877, Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First, which includes principles on surprise billing. In a July 2020 report addressing surprise billing, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) further urged Congress to act, recognizing that 41 percent of insured adults nationwide were surprised by a medical bill in the past two years.

Following Executive Order 13877, HHS finalized a set of regulations to address price transparency for consumers. The first rule set to take effect on January 1, 2021, requires hospitals to publicly list standard charges for the items and services that they provide. The second rule, set to take effect in 2022, demands similar transparency from most health plans and issuers of health insurance coverage. These regulations offer consumers more control over their health care spending and better information as they shop and compare health coverage options for themselves and their families.

The new HHS regulations, coupled with the surprise billing legislation, amount to the greatest consumer protections in America’s health care system since the Affordable Care Act. Consumers with health insurance should not have to worry about surprise medical bills—especially during a pandemic. The health care system will be a little more consumer-friendly in 2021, which is good news for all of us.

Is your honey real?

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

Honey is one of my favorite sweeteners. And I’m not alone. The global demand for honey is extremely high with the market size value in 2020 at 9.79 billion. But are we buying the authentic thing?

This high demand has resulted in market fraud and adulteration. Insider has stated that honey is the third-most-faked food in the world behind milk and olive oil. Assessing the quality of honey can be difficult because of the production process or adulteration with cane sugar or other ingredients.

In the United States, 400 million pounds of honey ends up in our food every year. Most of it is adulterated product from China. Manufacturers either dilute real honey by adding syrups derived from plants or they chemically modify the sugars in those syrups so they look like real honey. Honey consumers in the U.S., and across the globe, are being duped and need to be made more aware of how to tell if the honey they purchased is real or fake.

Here are several ways to spot fakes:

  1. Crystallization – real honey crystallizes over a period of time once kept in a cool dark place. Adulterated honey will always retain the same consistency.
  2. Water test – drop a teaspoon of honey in water. If the honey is pure, it will not easily mix with water but will become slightly thicker in texture.
  3. Microwave test/heat test – place a bowl of honey in the microwave and heat it for a minute. If it caramelizes, then it is real honey. If it bubbles, it is not.
  4. Paper test – put 2 teaspoons of honey on a plate and put paper on it. If the paper soaks the honey, then it is adulterated.

As the demand for honey increases, one would expect that the price of honey would increase. However, the opposite has occurred since the supply of adulterated honey has increased and driven global honey prices down. This has resulted in beekeepers barely being able to sell their honey for a profit.

Another major issue that adulterated honey causes is the threat to pollination and our food systems. Vice highlights that bees help produce 90 commercially-grown crops in the U.S. and have brought in over $24 billion to the economy. Without beekeepers, we would have a failed food system.

Consumers should seek out raw, organic, unadulterated honey that will not have negative impacts on our beekeepers, our crop, and our economy. If you buy a plant-based burger, you would like to know the nutritional value and ingredients of the product and it should be the same for honey or any product that we consume.

I would recommend that each consumer watch the Netflix documentary Rotten. The episode called “Lawyers, Guns and Honey” shows the reasons behind low production of authentic honey and the impact of the dwindling bee population on our environment.

For patients’ safety, it’s time Congress updated rules governing the $10 billion contact lens industry

Contact lenses have come a long way since they were first introduced around 70 years ago.  Today, roughly 45 million Americans rely on them for safe, affordable vision correction each year.  But along the way, federal regulation of the contact lens market has not kept pace with the changing way Americans purchase and rely on these medical devices.  The result is that thousands of American consumers are at risk each year of adverse eye health outcomes including keratitis, corneal scarring, corneal ulcers, and infection.

Under federal law, online contact lens retailers do not require patients to provide their prescriptions before ordering contact lenses.  Patients can simply tell the retailer the lenses the doctor prescribed for them and the retailer then must verify the prescription with the prescribing doctor.  As required by the Federal Trade Commission’s Contact Lens Rule (“Rule”), contact lens-prescribing doctors have eight hours to respond to an online sellers’ verification communication before the contact lenses are sent to patients. If they don’t respond, the online contact lens seller can ship the products, regardless of the fact that prescription accuracy hasn’t yet been verified. Since the Rule was implemented in the mid-1990s, before the adoption of email, many sellers used automated telephone calls, or so-called “robocalls,” to fulfill the verification requirement of the Rule.

These automated robocalls use computer-generated voices.  They are often inaudible.  They frequently contain incomplete patient information, and, in practice, these robocalls are sent via computer at all hours of the day and night without noting any call back number to correct errors. This cumbersome process makes it nearly impossible for eye doctors to properly verify contact lens prescriptions.  In fact, this prescription verification system can lead to the shipment of incorrect contact lenses to patients with potentially dangerous consequences for patient vision health and safety.

As many consumers can attest from being bombarded with marketing robocalls, making sense of them is a nightmare. Using robocalls to verify important patient information, for the reasons previously outlined, is unsafe.

Current technology is capable of far better than this robocall system, especially due to the various forms of electronic communication we use today. These technologies can produce receipts, notify consumers of product shipments, and share product alerts and updates. Electronic communication is far more reliable and effective because it’s inexpensive, easy to understand, accessible.  It also creates a verifiable paper trail.  Therefore, we believe sellers of contact lenses should be required to use email or other forms of electronic communication, not automated robocalls, to keep consumers safe.

The FTC’s revised Contact Lens Rule also adds a cumbersome paperwork requirement that consumers and eye doctors need to complete at the end of a contact lens exam and fitting. Under this rule, prescribers must collect and store a so-called signed acknowledgment form in which a patient verifies that they received a copy of their prescription, as is already required under federal law.

That’s all well and good, but we believe a far better system to inform contact lens patients of their rights would be to require prescribers to post a sign in their offices, which is clear and conspicuous, noting that patients have a right to a copy of their contact lens prescription at the completion of their contact lens fitting. This type of posted signage is already mandatory in California, seems to be working well there, and we think it should be emulated on the federal level.

That’s a better solution because like many other forms consumers and patients are asked to sign, consumers probably won’t take time to read the form and thus won’t understand what they are signing; this is an ineffective exercise, in our view, and will result in more paperwork without necessarily ensuring patients have access to their prescriptions as the law intends.

In short, it’s time for Congress to update the rules governing this important, $10 billion industry.  It should start by requiring the use of the latest technologies—not robocalls—to get consumers the information they need about their eye prescriptions and that those prescriptions are verified as accurate by their eye professionals.

New report: COVID-19 pandemic highlights need for White House Consumer Advocacy Office

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – The protection of consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond will require the next Administration to reestablish the White House Office of Consumer Affairs (WHOCA). The National Consumers League is calling for the restoration of the WHOCA to elevate the interests of consumers to the highest levels of government, including access to the Oval Office. For decades, WHOCA gave consumers a voice within the Administration and coordinated consumer protection activities across the U.S. government. Such leadership will be sorely needed to rebuild consumers’ confidence in the government’s ability to protect them from industry abuses.

In a new report, COVID-19 and the Impact on Consumers, the National Consumers League examines how consumers have been harmed by price gouging, fraud targeting stimulus checks, anti-worker practices, and a sharp dip in confidence in testing and vaccines since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The report also highlights legislation from the 116th Congress that advanced consumers’ interest and should be at the top of policymakers’ agendas next year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into stark relief the impact of years of hollowing-out of our nation’s consumer protection agencies,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “With this report, we hope to shine a light of consumer protection policies that should be embraced over the next four years, regardless of which party comes out ahead in November.”

Issues covered in the report include:

  • Price gouging and profiteering – Congress should act to rein in price gouging on personal protective equipment. Refunds for cancelled or postponed flights and live events should be required to be provided quickly to consumers.
  • Scams targeting stimulus funds – An estimated $8 billion in unemployment insurance funds have been lost to scammers since the beginning of the COVID crisis. Many millions more in stimulus checks and other COVID relief may have also been diverted. In any future stimulus legislation, Congress must act to ensure that a second wave of scams targeting such relief funds do not deprive consumers of desperately needed support.
  • Restoring confidence in COVID-related health care – NCL has strongly urged public health agencies to increase and enhance infrastructure regarding vaccine confidence and has called for effective public messaging and strong vaccine recommendations to ensure that the American public feels safe, informed, and empowered in their decisions to vaccinate once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
  • Protecting essential workers – Workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis must receive the personal protective equipment they need to do their jobs safely. They must also be given pandemic premium pay to compensate them for the increased risks they bear keeping our economy functioning during this challenging time. They should also not be barred from seeking justice by overly broad liability protections that some in Congress to seek to attach to future stimulus bills.
  • Accountability for taxpayer funds – Money intended to support struggling small business payrolls should not go to support the super-wealthy. Bailouts targeted at specific industries like the airlines should not be diverted to unrelated purposes, such as lobbying.

To read the full report, click here.


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

NBC News’ Vicky Nguyen, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, DC AG Karl Racine honored with national consumer watchdog’s annual awards

Oct. 6, 2020
Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, has honored NBC News Investigative and Consumer Correspondent Vicky Nguyen, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, and Attorney General for the District of Columbia Karl Racine with its highest honors in 2020.

Via a web broadcast on Tuesday, October 6, Rosenworcel and Nguyen received the 2020 Trumpeter Award. Attorney General Racine was honored with the 2020 Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership Award, named for NCL’s first general secretary and one of the most influential figures in 20th Century American history.

“These are NCL’s highest honors, given to leaders who are not afraid to speak out for social justice and for the rights of consumers and workers. No one fits that description better than this year’s honorees: FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, NBC News’ Vicky Nguyen, and our partner in the District of Columbia, Attorney General Karl Racine,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

“In the time of pandemic, these leading voices are more essential than ever, and each is doing their part to help consumers. Commissioner Rosenworcel’s genuine dedication to closing the homework gap has set her apart as a leader at the FCC. Vicky Nguyen’s reporting has helped millions of Americans sort through crucial information and distracting misinformation during the coronavirus crisis. And General Racine’s office has been busier than ever, helping protect the residents of the District of Columbia from scammers, fraudsters, and unscrupulous businesses. The National Consumers League is delighted to honor these deserving individuals with this year’s awards.”


What: National Consumers League’s 2020 Trumpeter Awards
When: Originally broadcast Tuesday, October 6, 2020 | 4 pm EDT


Each year since 1973, the National Consumers League has honored leaders in the fight for consumer and worker rights with the Trumpeter Award. Past honorees include Senator Ted Kennedy, the award’s inaugural recipient, as well as Labor Secretaries Hilda Solis, Robert Reich, and Alexis Herman, Senators Carl Levin and Paul Wellstone, Delores Huerta of the United Farm Workers, U.S. Representative John Lewis, and other honored consumer and labor leaders. Last year’s Trumpeter recipient was Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO.


Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton presented the Trumpeter Award to Commissioner Rosenworcel.

“Jessica Rosenworcel has used her position to fight for greater access and telecommunication services for all Americans. She digs for the truth behind the numbers and understands the needs and concerns of the people who are most affected by the FCC’s decisions: teachers and students, healthcare workers and patients, first responders and small businesses, and tens of thousands of telecom and media workers,” said Shelton. “Jessica is the voice of consumers and workers at the FCC. She has welcomed CWA members into her office to provide perspective on what is really going on in the communities we serve. Her focus on greater opportunity, accessibility, and affordability of communication services and her tireless advocacy on behalf of workers and consumers has never been more important.”

Commissioner Rosenworcel on her award

“From where I sit at the Federal Communications Commission, this pandemic has proven with total clarity that access to broadband is no longer ‘nice to have’; it’s ‘need to have’ for everyone, everywhere. Now more than ever we should solve the homework gap and come up with policies to ensure no child is left off line,” said Commissioner Rosenworcel. “I will keep using my voice to speak up about the homework gap, the digital divide and the fact that everyone in this country needs to have a broadband connection to have a fair shot at 21st Century success. Thank you, National Consumers League for this honor, and thank you for the work that you do.”

Susan Hogan, Consumer Reporter at WRC-TV in Washington, DC, presented Vicky Nguyen with her 2020 Trumpeter Award.

“Vicky is a trusted voice for consumers. Her contribution has become even more critical during the pandemic. No matter the story, you can always count on Vicky to keep consumers informed and safe,” said Hogan. “NCL’s Trumpeter Award is a wonderfully fitting recognition of a great journalist reporter and consumer advocate and I cannot think of a more deserving person to receive this accolade. Vicky, congratulations.”

Vicky Nguyen’s acceptance remarks 

“I am very honored to accept this 2020 Trumpeter Award, and I can truly say this is one of the highlights of my year. I focus on reporting that helps people live smarter, safer, healthier, and wealthier lives. I want every viewer to walk away from my stories saying ‘that’s good to know,’ because what they learned will empower them to make the right decisions for themselves and for their families,” said Nguyen. “I’m so honored to receive the Trumpeter Award and to be in your company this evening, thank you.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James presented AG Racine’s Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership award.

“General Racine has fought to preserve affordable housing, employ evidence-based juvenile justice reforms, crack down on slumlords, hold employers accountable for wage theft, and has made countless strides to protect consumers from scams and abusive business practices,” said James. “Attorney General Racine has dedicated much of his time, passion, and energy to these important causes. It is clear Attorney General Racine possesses the same ‘tough-as-nails’ reputation as a fighter for consumer rights as Florence Kelley, and no one is more deserving of this award then he.”

Attorney General Racine on the pandemic’s effects on consumers

“Our work is going to continue, particularly now, while millions of Americans are out of work and struggling amid this public health emergency. Too many people are at risk of losing their homes or suffering the consequences of credit score hits or drowning under debt,” said General Racine. “They need help, advocates who will fight for them, representatives who will pass laws responsive to their needs, and attorneys general who will hold fraudsters, scammers, and unscrupulous business people accountable.”


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

NCL statement on the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Sept. 21, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) joins the nation in mourning the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg’s pioneering career as an attorney fighting gender discrimination in the 1960s and 70s, challenging norms about what women in the workplace “could or could not do,” and as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice serves as an example to Americans. In her 27 years on the Court, Justice Ginsburg championed the rights of women’s reproductive freedom, the right to form a union, and to be protected from marketplace abuses and promoted affirmative action, environmental regulations, and reasonable restrictions on guns.

Dubbed “the Notorious RBG,” the Justice became an icon for young women across America as a small-in-stature but a towering voice for rights and protections for women and People of Color. She worked out daily with a personal trainer, lifting weights and stretching; she fought off five bouts of cancer.

Though she was the mother of feminist jurisprudence, she was not a rigid ideologue. During a mock court case of the 1908 Muller vs. Oregon event at the Supreme Court, over which she presided, Ginsburg noted that the litigants in the 100-year-old case—including NCL’s Florence Kelley and Boston lawyer Louis Brandeis—who argued that laws saying women could not be forced to work more than 60 hours a week were not sexist. Having the law apply to only women was their “entering wedge” and the only opportunity to set maximum hours laws, Justice Ginsburg noted. Men went on to gain the same protections during the next decade.

Justice Ginsburg could be seen welcoming visitors to the Court and was especially gracious to those being sworn into the Supreme Court bar, an honor available to any lawyer in good standing who has a Supreme Court bar member to introduce them at special sessions held Court.

The National Consumers League is deeply saddened by the loss of such a powerful force on the Supreme Court of the United States. Her sense of justice and her influence on the Court won’t easily be replicated.


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

NCL concerned Congress seeks to approve unreviewed CDB products

Sept. 17, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—On September 4, lawmakers introduced The Hemp and Hemp-derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act of 2020 (HR 8179), which directs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make hemp and hemp-derived CBD lawful as a dietary ingredient or dietary supplement. The National Consumers League (NCL) has long been concerned about the public health and safety risks posed by unapproved cannabis-derived products. NCL does not support legislation that seeks to bypass FDA’s authority and circumvent the scientific rigor of an FDA review.

Under current law, manufacturers and distributers of CBD products can already petition the FDA to review and approve a new ingredient for use as a dietary supplement (21 U.S.C. 350b). For FDA approval as a dietary supplement or new ingredient, manufacturers and distributors are required to submit scientific data, including any published studies, to provide a basis to conclude that a product is generally regarded as safe (GRAS). Unfortunately, there is a disconcerting lack of research and data about the safety of CBD products already in the market, whereby millions of consumers are using to self-treat serious and life-threatening ailments.

In response to the proliferation of unreviewed and untested CBD products in the market, NCL launched the Consumers for Safe CBD program to provide greater education to consumers about CBD. As demonstrated in a white paper published by NCL, cannabis companies tend to focus their research efforts on inexpensive, low-strength studies that are ultimately used for marketing purposes, not to enhance scientific knowledge or bring new proven therapies to patients. HR 1879 would further incentivize CBD manufacturers to forego the more rigorous and costly clinical trial process for developing an FDA-approved medicine.

NCL is concerned that CBD manufacturers and distributers making claims to treat certain medical issues will seek expedited approval of CBD products as a dietary supplement, instead of as a drug. Lawmakers should encourage the development of cannabis-based medicines that have undergone the rigor of randomized controlled clinical trials to learn more about how cannabis-derived therapies can both help and harm patients. This legislation seeks to fast-track the classification of CBD products as dietary supplements or ingredients without sufficient scientific data on their safety and efficacy, potentially placing consumers further at risk.


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

Delta and American ending change fees another victory for consumers

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) today applauded Delta Airlines and American Airlines for their decisions to end ticket changes fees. The decision, prompted by United Airlines’ decision on Sunday to end change fees, comes after nearly a decade of advocacy by NCL and other consumer organizations to put an end to such outrageous fees.

While the end of change fees at the Big Three airlines is a victory for consumers, the airlines continue to collect billions of dollars in add-on fees for services such as baggage, seat reservations, and early boarding. In addition, low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier and smaller airlines like JetBlue, Hawaiian, and Alaska continue to charge exorbitant change fees.

The following statement is attributable to National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

Following United’s lead, Delta and American have taken the right step for their customers by ending change fees. Consumers often need to change a ticket reservation due to circumstances beyond their control. We don’t think they should be penalized to the tune of hundreds of dollars when life’s uncertainties interfere with travel plans.

While Delta has committed to ending change fees permanently and American has agreed to also end change fees on some international flights, more needs to be done to ensure that change fees are consigned to the dustbin of aviation industry history. The commitment to not charge change fees should be included in all three airlines’ contracts of carriage, the legally binding document that underpins each ticket. Without this action, we fear that the airlines will simply slide back into their old ways when the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 crisis or when a new CEO takes over.

Congress should also continue to push for legislation like the FAIR Fees Act, which will promote transparency and fairness in the air travel marketplace for all consumers, not just customers of the biggest airlines. NCL will continue to advocate for such common-sense consumer protection legislation.


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

United ending domestic change fees is welcome news and a challenge to the industry

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, applauds United Airlines for its decision to permanently remove its $200 domestic change fee. The move comes after more than a decade of complaints by travelers and advocacy by consumer organizations like NCL who have urged the industry, the Department of Transportation, and Congress to rein in excessive, anti-competitive fees.

The following statement is attributable to National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“We thank United Airlines for this bold policy change. United’s announcement is a victory for basic fairness in the air travel marketplace. The flying public has been beleaguered by hefty fees for everyday acts like changing an airline ticket, checking baggage, or reserving a particular seat on the plane. This comes at a critical time, as millions struggle financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. United’s decision to end domestic change fees—and we take them at its word when it describes the change as permanent—is welcome news for airline passengers.

We also want to extend our thanks to fellow advocacy groups  and pro-consumer Members of Congress like Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Steve Cohen who have fought for consumers in Congress by championing the FAIR Fees Act. This common-sense bill would require airlines’ add-on fees to be proportional to their actual cost.

United Airlines should be applauded for listening and responding to consumer advocates.  NCL has long argued that change fees are an unnecessary and unfair money grab by the airlines, as it costs practically nothing to change a traveler’s reservation when the unexpected happens. We sincerely hope that other members of the airline industry, particularly the other two legacy carriers—American and Delta—will follow suit. Failing to do so will put them at risk of losing even more passengers to companies like United and Southwest that do right by their customers. NCL will continue to push for common-sense legislation that requires all airlines to resist using their considerable market power to gouge consumers on fees and penalties.”


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

Compromised access to the USPS could result in worsened health outcomes

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (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.


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