Legislation requires federal intervention in medical supply distribution
After announcing an additional $4.4 billion in ‘hot spot’ money for New York hospitals to keep the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) going strong, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act, which would use the full authority of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to put an expert in charge of stabilizing the U.S. supply chain and provide critical oversight of the distribution of COVID-19 related materials.
The senators explained that this plan is necessary because the administration’s lack of a strong national strategy to fight COVID-19 has slowed the distribution of essential resources, led to poor coordination among states, slowed recovery from the virus, and endangered the public.
“The administration’s scattershot focus and failure to effectively marshal the full power of the federal government has put our country behind the curve in confronting the coronavirus crisis,” said Senator Schumer. “This has forced our frontline healthcare workers, hospitals and governments to go on a scavenger hunt for the equipment they need to stay safe. This is unacceptable, and the administration needs to step up to the plate and implement a strong national strategy that supports our heroic healthcare workers and that establishes a real testing system.”
“President Trump has failed our frontline health care workers and state officials as they desperately search for PPE and other essential equipment during this unprecedented crisis. Suppliers have abused President Trump’s lack of transparency and leadership to raise prices on scarce equipment, leaving states to bid against one another,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The notion that some states have greater access to the federal stockpile than others is deeply disturbing. This administration must be held accountable. We must federalize our health care supply chain to establish a direct and transparent path for distribution as we continue to combat COVID-19.”
Schumer and Gillibrand emphasized the importance of a national strategy for both increasing PPE production and testing capabilities. Health experts across the nation are sounding the alarm now about the importance of implementing both simultaneously, with PPE desperately needed as the battle against the virus continues in earnest in New York and testing needed to avoid a second wave of infections. The senators dismissed the administration’s current testing plan to test 2% of the population as insufficient and cited numerous experts who believe the country is testing only a small fraction of tests needed to stop the outbreak.
Schumer and Gillibrand also expressed disappointment at how the president was willing to use the DPA to keep meat packing plants open but continues to drag his feet on using the DPA to jumpstart an aggressive testing and PPE distribution strategy that would keep workers in those plants, consumers, and the food supply, safe.
The Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act lays out a clear plan of attack:
1. The bill calls on the Trump administration to appoint a civilian Executive Officer for Critical Medical Equipment and Supplies to direct these efforts. In an administration marked by chaos, distraction, and disorganization are trademark, a designated, qualified head is essential. This officer would help ensure the president utilizes the full authorities available under the Defense Production Act and ensure that allocation of critical resources is carried out in a manner consistent with states’ needs.
2. Senate Democrats also built a number of transparency measures into this bill – the appointed officer would assess and report on equipment and supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile, the projected gap between quantities needed and quantities available, and work to identify manufacturers.
3. Additionally, an Inspector General would be appointed to oversee these critical efforts and work to maintain transparency.
The full text of the Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act that Senators Schumer and Gillibrand introduced along with 44 other Senators, can be found here.