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Expansion of negotiation, reducing supply chain barriers in Senate bill

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(The Center Square) – Expanding negotiating powers and eliminating supply chain barriers for medical goods are in a bill introduced at the U.S. Senate.

The measure spawned from lessons learned during the pandemic, say sponsoring Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

The Medical Supply Chain Resiliency Act to expand engagement with allies to combat shortages of medical products and supplies by strengthening supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against future health crises.

“The pandemic caused major disruptions across nearly all supply chains, and these challenges disproportionately impacted our health care supply chain – from medical devices to life-saving medicines to personal protective equipment,” Tillis said. “Now is the time to address the long-standing shortcomings in our supply chains that were highlighted over the pandemic, repair the damage done, and ensure America is adequately prepared for future national security and public health threats.”

According to John Murphy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for international policy, the legislation would “direct the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate trade agreements with trusted allies to eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers that weaken the U.S. medical goods manufacturing base and that of our allies.

“These agreements would also support intellectual property protection, regulatory cooperation, and collaboration on public and private R&D efforts,” he said. “Only close allies and partners would qualify for such agreements. Close consultation with the legislative branch would be essential, and Congress would retain a right to disapprove any agreements.”

The legislation is backed by a variety of health care and business industry leaders, including the Chamber, Premier, Inc., Siemens Healthineers, Trade Alliance for Health, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Foreign Trade Council.

2023 Supply Chain Resiliency Guide produced by Premier this week shows the health care supply chain continues to struggle more than three years after the onset of the pandemic.

The report, gleaned from surveys of hundreds of U.S. healthcare leaders, found “more than 75 percent of health care and supply chain leaders expect supply chain challenges to worsen or remain the same over the next years.

“Respondents cite increased labor costs (46 percent) and labor availability (39 percent), inflation (45 percent), and ongoing supply disruptions, backorders and product shortages (39 percent) as top concerns,” the Charlotte-based health care company reports.

“A more sustainable, resilient, and secure healthcare supply chain requires greater diversification, including investment in domestic manufacturing coupled with strategic trade relationships to encourage nearshoring,” Premier CEO Michael Alkire said.

“The Medical Supply Chain Resiliency Act is an essential piece of legislation that would permit the establishment of trusted trade partners to diversify sourcing for medical devices and pharmaceuticals and enable timely access to the vital supplies providers need to care for patients during a public health crisis or national security threat.”