There’s been a lot of back-and-forth in Washington about the United States Postal Service over the last couple of weeks. The new Postmaster General has made a range of sweeping cuts that have impacted mail delivery services across the country. This comes at a time when the USPS is gearing up for a national election unlike any other as many people look to vote by mail this November.
However, the USPS has a sacred place in American life. It was originally designed to keep us connected as Americans, guaranteeing a point of contact for every citizen. Today, millions of families and individuals rely on the post office for secure home deliveries, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
From life-saving prescription medications to social security checks, find out what the USPS means to your patients and the country at large.
Changes to the Post Office
The USPS remains one of the most popular federal agencies in the country, with an approval rating of around 91%. However, the logistics industry has changed substantially over the last few years. New players like Amazon, FedEx, and UPS have crowded the landscape, pulling customers away from USPS.
After reaching a peak of around 213 billion parcel units in 2006, the USPS has experienced a year-on-year decline in mail volume every year since. By 2019, this number had dropped by 33% to just 142.57 billion units.
It’s particularly important for rural and low-income Americans. USPS is much cheaper than using other delivery companies, which helps many people save money. Many of these individuals lack access to the internet, forcing them to rely on paper checks, bills, and correspondence.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, appointed by President Trump, has taken a lot of flak in recent weeks over his changes to the post office, especially in the middle of a global pandemic and an election year. The agency has disabled sorting machines, limited employee overtime, and removed mailboxes in certain communities all over the country. This is an effort to cut costs, considering the agency has lost billions of dollars over the course of the pandemic.
After pushback from the right and the left, DeJoy recently said he won’t make any more changes to the USPS until after the election. However, many are worried the damage has already been done. People have reported service delays across the country. It’s taking a few more days for packages and letters to arrive than most people are used to, but this isn’t a mere inconvenience. It could be a matter of life and death for some Americans.
The USPS and Healthcare
Millions of people rely on the post office for everything from prescription medication to paper checks. It’s how many Americans pay their bills and keep in touch with their doctors. By March, the number of mail-order prescriptions grew by 21%, according to a pharmaceutical analyst. As of last week, mail-order prescriptions accounted for 5.1% of the market.
Find out how a small change in mail service could have a serious effect on your patients.
Approximately 90% of all VA medications are sent through the mail, making these delays a serious risk to their health. Recent changes to the post office apparently caught the VA off guard. The agency says these medications have been delayed by as much as 25% in some areas. It is now looking at other ways to deliver prescriptions to our country’s 18.2 million veterans, one of which is switching the system over to UPS.
Many senior citizens are trying to avoid contact with the outside world for safety reasons. Some seniors may put off filling their prescriptions if it means risking going out in public to get them. Insurance companies also tend to cover more of the cost when patients have their medications delivered. Retail pharmacy outlets may charge your patients more for their medicine. Some seniors may also have trouble paying their bills if their social security checks are delayed.
- Small Businesses and Organizations
So many types of organizations and businesses are looking to reopen their doors, including schools, churches, doctors’ offices, and other types of facilities. Studies show that around 70% of micro-businesses – those with less than 10 workers – use the post office at least once every six months, and many spend an average of $359 a month. And 56% say they use USPS most frequently to ship. Smaller organizations often lack the buying power to purchase supplies in bulk.
Some organizations in your community may have trouble getting back to work if vital shipments are delayed, including cleaning supplies, PPE, and other essentials.
Some of your patients may not have the option of picking up their prescriptions at the pharmacy or signing up for direct deposit. As you can see, the USPS plays a vital role in American life. Keep these service delays in mind as you help your patients through the pandemic.