Legislators think they can improve the health care supply chain


The promise: Over the last several months, lawmakers from both parties have introduced more than a dozen bills to improve the health care supply chain following failures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Few have made much progress, but several have bipartisan support.

Many of the bills propose similar solutions such as studies on the causes of supply chain issues and support for domestic manufacturing.

At a Senate committee hearing last week, a group of experts said the U.S. could prepare the supply chain for future pandemics by strengthening the Strategic National Stockpile and encouraging domestic manufacturing of drugs and supplies.

The problems: During the hearing, senators recounted scenes of nurses sewing their own masks and lamented the country’s reliance on foreign manufacturers to produce drugs and medical supplies.

Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, blamed supply chain failures on a “failure of imagination.” Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan, claimed the Trump administration mismanaged the situation.

Both said they hoped the hearing would lead to legislation that would prevent similar shortages in future pandemics.

The solutions: Researchers, trade groups, hospitals and private companies offered a range of potential solutions at the hearing, ranging from raising tariffs to creating new government agencies.

Nearly all agreed that increasing the geographic diversity of the health care supply chain and increasing visibility would make it more resilient.

A better stockpile: Rob Handfield, a professor of supply chain management at North Carolina State University, said the federal government should add more flexibility to the Strategic National Stockpile, a supply of emergency medical products maintained by the federal government.

The federal government failed to replenish the national stockpile after the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, meaning many products had already expired when they were needed last year.

Read more: FreightWaves

Photo: Mark Thomas