Trump government ripped off people and overpaid ventilator company $500M, claim Dems: 'Got taken to the cleaners'
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee made the claim after reviewing thousands of pages of internal administration documents
House Democrats released an investigation on Friday, July 31, accusing President Donald Trump's administration of overpaying ventilator manufacturers by up to $500 million when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the US. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee alleged after reviewing thousands of pages of internal administration documents that the federal government contracted Philips North America to deliver 43,000 ventilators for a considerably higher price than former President Barack Obama's administration paid for functionally identical ventilator models. It was Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi whose subcommittee led the said investigation.
"The American people got ripped off, and Donald Trump and his team got taken to the cleaners," Krishnamoorthi declared. "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." House Democrats are now demanding Philips return the money they claim was overcharged to the government.
However, the company has denied the report's conclusions outright, saying it did not indulge in price gouging during the pandemic. In fact, Philips argued they had given a considerable discount for the contract. In a statement, CEO of Royal Philips Frans van Houten said the company did "not recognize the conclusions in the subcommittee’s report, and we believe that not all the information that we provided has been reflected in the report." He added, "I would like to make clear that at no occasion has Philips raised prices to benefit from the crisis situation."
The company explained that the list price of the ventilator under the contract was $21,000, but was supplied to the Trump administration for only $15,000, marking a $6,000 discount within the rushed production deadline. But the report claimed that a "functionally identical" ventilator was delivered for just $3,280 under a 2014 contract during the Obama administration. Democrats claimed that based on their review of purchases between December 2019 and May 2020, other small buyers secured the same model for as low as $9,327, even those who purchased only one unit.
"No American purchaser paid more than the US government," the report alleged.
Speaking to USA Today, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere called the report "misleading and inaccurate." "Because of the President’s leadership, the United States leads the world in the production and acquisition of ventilators. No American who needed a ventilator was denied one, and no American who needs a ventilator in the future will be denied one," he said.
It's worth noting that the Trump administration has frequently touted the surplus of ventilators in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"When you look at the United States' response, you look at the fact that we were supposed to have a ventilator shortage. In fact, we had a ventilator surplus," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated at a briefing.
The report claimed that "the Administration accepted Philips’ first offer without even trying to negotiate a lower price." But top Republicans on the oversight committee and subcommittee, including Rep James Comer and Rep Michael Cloud, disregarded the report as "incredibly misleading."
"The Democrats' latest report shows they will stop at nothing in their endless quest to politicize this pandemic. After months of Democratic governors begging for more ventilators, congressional Democrats are now unhappy with the administration's successful efforts to quickly secure a robust supply of ready to use ventilators," Comer and Cloud said in a joint statement.