Today, Congressmen Brad Schneider (IL-10) and David McKinley (WV-01) introduced new, bipartisan legislation to address shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies. The Protecting Providers Everywhere (PPE) in America Act would boost domestic PPE and testing supply production and promote a more sustainable supply chain by ensuring more predictable, dedicated funding from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to American manufacturers of applicable medical supplies.
The reliance on foreign sources for manufacturing has contributed to the alarming shortages and price spikes of respirators, masks, and nitrile gloves for health care workers, as well as reagents, swabs, and other materials for diagnostic testing. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an estimated 95 percent of surgical masks and 75 percent of N95 respirators are made overseas.
"First responders, frontline medical workers and other essential workers are struggling to acquire adequate PPE to safely do their jobs, in part because of our reliance on imports with long lead times. The PPE in America Act will help make sure that we'll have sufficient supplies of PPE as we beat this pandemic, and will do so with American jobs," said Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10).
"During the pandemic we've learned just how reliant on foreign countries America is for critical supplies like masks, gloves and medical equipment," said McKinley. "We must take concrete steps to reduce this dependence by developing domestic supply chains for these essential products. Doing so will not only strengthen our economic and national security, but will also create American manufacturing jobs," said Congressman David McKinley (WV-01).
As demand from across the globe constrained production capacity for these critical medical supplies throughout the pandemic, prices rose and access in the United States was severely constricted. As a result, heroic doctors, nurses, and other essential workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 response have worked for months with inadequate protection, with a reported 80 percent of nurses reusing single-use equipment.
Specifically, the PPE in America Act would authorize a pilot project at the Department of Health and Human Services that would:
Boost domestic PPE and testing supply production by requiring at least 40 percent, and up to 100 percent, of applicable supplies procured by the SNS to be from domestic manufacturers (with safeguards for availability and pricing);
Support predictability for the domestic manufacturing base by establishing a replenishable mechanism for the SNS by routinely transferring supplies to federal agencies or selling to the commercial health care market. This arrangement would streamline management of supplies and use the SNS as an engine for domestic manufacturing capabilities, while mitigating the current risk of product expiration.
The following organizations have endorsed the legislation: American Hospital Association, International Safety Equipment Association, Illinois Nurses Association, Illinois Health and Hospital Association.
U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) have introduced the companion bill in the Senate.