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Brown-Warren Introduce Legislation to Nationalize the Medical Supply Chain

The PRICE Act Would Stop Bidding Wars Between States, Federal Government and Hospitals

Washington, May 1, 2020
The “Pandemic Response and Interstate Cost Equity Act of 2020” or “PRICE Act” to create a federal price-controlling program on critical COVID-19 equipment to ensure lower prices and guarantee supplies are directed to where they are needed most.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), introduced the “Pandemic Response and Interstate Cost Equity Act of 2020” or “PRICE Act” to create a federal price-controlling program on critical COVID-19 equipment to ensure lower prices and guarantee supplies are directed to where they are needed most. 

Due to purposeful inaction by the Trump administration, states, localities, hospitals and nonprofits are competing against each other, the federal government and other countries for medical supplies resulting in ever-increasing prices, orders being directed to those who can pay the most, and many areas not getting the vital resources they need to save lives. The bill would establish the federal government as the sole buyer, vendor, owner and distributor of critical medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic and all future national health emergencies, and allocate those based on need.  

Since the declaration of the COVID-19 national health emergency, the cost of essential medical equipment has steeply increased. A recent study by the Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals found the cost of N95 masks increased from $0.38 to $5.75 each (1,513% increase), vinyl exam gloves increased $0.02 to $0.06 (300% increase), isolation gowns increased $0.25 to $5.00 (2000% increase), and reusable face shields increased from $0.50 to $4.00 (900% increase). Additionally, the cost of infusion pumps doubled since the crisis began, while portable x-ray machines now cost 5 times more. This bidding war has led to a surge of price gouging complaints nationwide while the Administration has sent federal authorities to seize shipments of critical supplies from states, localities, and hospitals.

The Defense Production Act grants the Administration the necessary authorities to ensure a coordinated, national distribution of scarce resources. The threat COVID-19 poses requires immediate action for centralized purchasing to ensure states get the supplies they need including ventilators, PPE, testing supplies, swabs, pharmaceutical supplies for medical surge sites and mobile medical labs.

“Like many states around the country, Maryland faces shortages in critical supplies needed to care for the number of infected patients. Thus far, the Trump Administration has only delivered a fraction of requested resources,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “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. We are all Americans, and it's time we approach this challenge as one united country.”   

“The Trump Administration’s response to this pandemic is a disaster of epic proportions. They are dragging their feet and burying their heads instead of using their power to make sure states have the critical resources they need. When states go out on their own, the federal government is outbidding them or outright seizing supplies,” said Senator Warren. “We can’t confront a national crisis with bidding wars and massive price increases -- we need a national strategy. If President Trump won’t do his job, Congress will do it for him.” 

Safely reopening state economies will require aggressively ramping up testing to ensure public health and worker safety. Currently, physical components of test kits, like nasal swabs, viral transport media and reagents remain scarce. Health care workers still lack critical PPE. And labs do not have the equipment needed to process the needed number of tests.

The PRICE Act would require the Trump Administration to:

  • Identify medical supplies and equipment whose market prices have increased by more than 15 percent.

  • Place an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with all domestic suppliers for scarce medical resources required to address the pandemic.

  • Require suppliers to prioritize federal contracts.

  • Establish a national distribution plan to allocate resources fairly and according to need.

  • Provide Congress biweekly updates on the status of the contracts and the allocation of the resources

  • Re-establish the Joint Committee on Defense Production that was originally created by the DPA and dissolved in 1977 to provide strong Congressional oversight.

Original co-sponsors of the PRICE Act include: Reps. Salud Carbajal (CA-24), André Carson (IN-07), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) and David Trone (MD-06).

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