Modern Healthcare
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
September 19, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented our nation with new and unique challenges that require all levels of government, and all facets of the healthcare system, to work together. It has pushed our limits as to what is possible. And it exposed a number of flaws in our pandemic preparedness and response capabilities.

The alarming shortage of personal protective equipment our health system encountered represents a tremendous challenge that has been a decade in the making. For too long, the U.S. has relied on countries like China to produce PPE and critical pharmaceuticals.

China has come to dominate the global market in the PPE production. Chinese companies have low costs, high demand around the world and are supported in their efforts by its Communist government. Even before the pandemic, the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that China already exported more respirators, surgical masks, medical goggles and protective gear than the rest of the world combined.

Make no mistake: China’s efforts in this regard are strategic. The more countries around the world that rely on them for in-demand products during a time of crisis, the more influence they have to promote their global agenda.

We’ve seen a similar trend with the pharmaceutical industry, with drug manufacturing slowly moving out of the U.S. As of August 2019, only 28% of the manufacturing facilities making active pharmaceutical ingredients, or APIs, to supply the U.S. were in America. The remaining 72% were overseas, and 13% were in China, which has doubled its number of registered facilities making APIs between 2010 and 2019.

U.S. manufacturers are struggling to compete, and we’ve allowed it to happen. Instead of building our own supply chain of American-made PPE and pharmaceuticals, we turned a blind eye to the problem and accepted China’s dominance.

Not only did our reliance on China fail us during this pandemic, it has broader implications for our safety and economic success.

In July, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor called our reliance on overseas suppliers “a national security issue,” and testified to Congress that, “PPE and lifesaving equipment is just as important as building an aircraft carrier. We need to have that capacity here in the United States. We cannot rely on peer competitors to manage our destiny.”

He’s right. We can’t forget that relying on China for critical supplies means putting our health and security in the hands of a nation that wants to be the dominant world power. Their success depends on our failure. And since the Communist Party controls every company in China, every time we buy their supplies we are supporting a regime that is stealing our technology and intellectual property, building up their military to compete with us, abusing human rights, stripping Hong Kong residents of their freedoms and threatening Taiwan.

We have to stand up and say that we, as Americans and freedom-loving people, are better than this.

President Donald Trump did the right thing by enacting the Defense Production Act to compel U.S. companies to begin manufacturing PPE. But we have a long way to go.

We need to build up domestic manufacturing. As Florida’s governor, I focused on keeping taxes low for manufacturers and eliminated the sales tax on capital equipment. In the Senate, I’m working to pass a bill that will help build the national stockpile of goods from American-based producers and remove China from the U.S. supply chain.

All of us, whether in the healthcare industry or not, need to recognize the threat of China and start taking real steps to stop relying on our adversaries and focus on supplies and products “Made in America.”

The future of our nation and the health and safety of our people depend on our action.