Brown, Warren Push to Nationalize Medical Supply Chain for COVID-19 Response
Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown (D) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are pushing legislation that would nationalize the medical supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawmakers are sponsoring the “Pandemic Response and Interstate Cost Equity Act of 2020” or “PRICE Act.”
The bill would create a federal price-control program for equipment critical to the novel coronavirus response and establish the federal government as the distributor of medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic and all future public health emergencies.
The lawmakers said the coronavirus threat ― which had killed more than 65,000 Americans as of Friday ― requires immediate action for centralized purchasing of ventilators, protective equipment, testing supplies, pharmaceuticals and mobile medical labs.
Without a coordinated federal response during the pandemic, governors have raised concerns about scarcity of supplies and higher prices driven by bidding wars between states, other governments, hospitals and private businesses.
The lawmakers cited a recent study by the Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals, which found that costs of N95 masks increased from $0.38 to $5.75 each, vinyl exam gloves increased from $0.02 to $0.06, isolation gowns increased from $0.25 to $5, and reusable face shields increased from $0.50 to $4.
In some cases, federal authorities have seized shipments of critical supplies from states, local governments and hospitals.
Maryland and many other states have received only a fraction of the medical supplies they requested from the federal government. The bill would require distribution of federal supplies based on each state’s need.
“This virus isn’t siloed away to one state or region, this is a nationwide problem. States should not have to compete against each other to save the lives of their residents,” said Brown, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 4th District. “We are all Americans, and it’s time we approach this challenge as one united country.”
In addition to establishing price controls, the PRICE Act would require the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to contract indefinitely with domestic companies for medical resources and require suppliers to prioritize federal contracts.
Maryland Rep. David Trone, a Democrat representing the 6th District, is a cosponsor of the bill.