EAU CLAIRE — People who get medications delivered through the U.S. Postal Service should plan for longer shipping times starting this month, an Eau Claire pharmacist director said.
A new 10-year plan for the USPS, announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in March, will slow mail delivery standards and cut hours at some post offices in an attempt to stabilize the struggling agency.
DeJoy said in March that the biggest change is a relaxing of the current first-class letter delivery standard of one-to-three-days to a one-to-five-day benchmark. The changes went into effect at the beginning of October.
“Our concern is that there’ll be times, if people are not planning ahead properly, that they will order their medications and because of delays, medications may not get to patients as fast as they expect and need them to,” said Bruce Bergmann, regional pharmacy director for Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire.
The Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire pharmacy draws patients from a wide region, from Thorp to Rice Lake to Menomonie, Bergmann said.
The pharmacy ships medications to patients via the USPS.
Many people who live in rural areas don’t have pharmacies nearby, and as people age they tend to need more medications, Bergmann said. Others don’t have reliable access to cars or other transportation; some might not be able to afford to drive to Eau Claire to pick up their medication.
“Some of the same people who use more medications are also limited in their ability to control delivery by picking up medications in our pharmacy,” Bergmann said. “There are medications that are very critical for people, from heart to diabetic medications. Missed doses can lead to adverse effects, if not even hospitalization.”
Bergmann said his most important recommendation is that people order their medications earlier, which will help guard against USPS delays or internal delays.
“When you’re getting down to, we usually say about a week’s supply … (at) seven to 10 days would be a wise time for people to order their medications early so that it can be at their mailbox in plenty of time,” he said.
Bergmann said he’s also concerned about new shipping delays involving temperature-sensitive medications, like insulin, which if heated loses effectiveness and if frozen cannot be used.
Holiday shipping price increases on the way
DeJoy said this year that the new 10-year plan aims to streamline USPS operations, end reliance on air transport for long-distance mail and invest in a new fleet of delivery vehicles.
Under the new plan, in August the price of stamps increased by three cents, from 55 to 58 cents. The post office is also beginning temporary price increases through Dec. 26 for some shipping.
“These temporary rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with the revenue to cover extra costs in anticipation of peak-season volume surges similar to levels experienced in 2020,” the USPS said in a press release Friday.
A mail sorting facility in Wausau was also slated to close under the new 10-year plan. The change means that mail sorting from the Wausau facility would move to Green Bay; postal union representatives criticized the plan, saying the closure could lead to delivery delays in parts of Wisconsin.