House Democrats find Trump officials overpaid for ventilators by as much as $500 million

A report from Democrats on the House Oversight Committee released Friday finds that the Trump administration overpaid by as much as $500 million for ventilators and was slow to respond to an offer to accelerate shipments in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The report finds that the Trump administration paid the manufacturer Philips $15,000 per ventilator, more than any other American purchaser. Some purchasers buying as few as just one ventilator negotiated prices down to as low as $9,327 per ventilator, the report said. 

The Oversight Committee said the administration failed to negotiate the price down and labeled the talks “inept negotiations led by White House official Peter Navarro.”

“The Trump Administration’s mishandling of ventilator procurement for the nation’s stockpile cost the American people dearly during the worst public health crisis of our generation,” Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiMilley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets Democrats seek information on Treasury’s administration of ‘opportunity zone’ program Biden campaign rips ‘outrageous’ Trump comments on coronavirus testing MORE (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Oversight subcommittee that did the report, said in a statement.

“Not only did the Administration jeopardize the health and safety of the American people – but it squandered more than half-a-billion dollars that could have been used to better support our nation’s crisis response efforts.”

While there was a scramble for ventilators in the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and fears of running out, the situation on ventilators has since stabilized and there are no documented cases of anyone needing a ventilator who did not get one. 

Still, in addition to overpaying, the House Oversight report also said that the administration failed to take Philips up on an offer to accelerate shipments of ventilators under an existing contract early on. 

Krishnamoorthi also said the experience with ventilators raised questions about what other ways the administration has been mishandling contracts. 

The White House and Philips did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report. 

On Jan. 21, a Philips official emailed a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official: “Please let us know how we could help out or if you may expect a need to accelerate any shipments,” according to one of the emails obtained by the committee. 

But the report found that the administration did not respond to this offer for six weeks, until it finally asked about speeding up production on March 4. 

Philips had an existing contract for ventilators first made under the Obama administration, the report said, but the Trump administration granted an extension on this contract and instead negotiated a new contract, where the report said the government overpaid. 

The original contract was for 10,000 ventilators and made in 2014. It was delayed, but an extension given by the Obama administration had a deadline of November 2019, the committee said, in time for the pandemic.

The Trump administration gave three additional extensions in 2017 and 2018, the report said. “Had the Trump Administration held Philips to the terms of the Obama-era contract, the country would have had 10,000 ventilators that it needed when the coronavirus crisis struck,” the committee said.

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