Trump Quietly Forcing Medical Suppliers To Sell Protective Equipment To White House First – Ahead Of States, Hospitals
The Trump administration is quietly using the Defense Production Act to force medical suppliers in Texas and Colorado to sell to it first—ahead of states or hospitals, The Daily Beast reports.
According to the report, firms face fines or jail time if they don’t comply. The news comes as states and hospitals scour the world for protective medical equipment.
While it’s unclear how many times the power has been used during the coronavirus pandemic, federal contracting records examined by Kaiser Health News show that federal authorities staked first rights to $137 million in medical supplies. The orders in late March flew under the radar, even as fierce bidding wars raged among states and nations for desperately needed medical protective gear.
“It’s like Lord of the Flies out there for states and hospitals as they bid against each other for critical medical supplies and equipment,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in a statement to KHN. “Plus, there’s no transparency about what the federal government is doing with the equipment that they purchase when they outbid states and hospitals.”
Without public awareness of what was taken on a federal-first basis—and who it was given to—the states are left in the dark after being told repeatedly to procure their own goods. The federal government, President Donald Trump has said, is not the states’ “shipping clerk.”
“It’s putting people into the free market where the invisible hand doesn’t care who it strangles,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University School of Medicine.
Trump enacted the first-in-line power of the DPA for the Health and Human Services Department in an executive order on March 18—and nine days later extended the power to the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On Thursday at his White House press briefing, Trump announced he had invoked the DPA “against” 3M. His executive order states that the government “shall use any and all authority available under the Act to acquire… the number of N-95 respirators that the Administrator determines to be appropriate.”
“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. ‘P Act’ all the way,” the president tweeted. “Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing—will have a big price to pay!”
While the administration had asked the company to stop exporting respirators to the Latin American and Canadian markets, 3M stated in a press release Friday there would be humanitarian implications, since the company supplies a critical amount of those countries’ N95 masks. 3M also warned such a move could create a potential trade war where other countries then refuse to sell N95s to the U.S., potentially resulting in fewer N95s in the United States.