States mulling consortium to buy medical supplies


A nurse dons protective equipment before entering a coronavirus patient's room. | Getty Images

A nurse dons protective equipment before entering a coronavirus patient’s room. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

ALBANY, N.Y. — Governors from several states are discussing the possibility of forming a consortium to buy medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, an idea that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo started touting in late March.

Cuomo, at a press briefing Wednesday, said the National Governors Association is having a “conversation” about such a purchasing group among states.

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“That is something the governors are discussing,” National Governors Association spokesperson Eric Wohlschlegel said in an interview. He declined to provide a timeline, additional details or the names of governors involved in the talks.

Cuomo, the NGA vice chairman, said the group should be the entity to organize the process because the idea of cities and states bidding against one another for supplies is “just madness.” Most, but not all, states belong to the NGA.

Cuomo said the preferred option would be having the federal government serve as “the purchasing entity” and “master strategist of the operation.” But, he said, if the federal government declined to play such a role, then “let the states as a consortium be a purchasing consortium. That’s what the National Governors Association’s conversation is.”

Cuomo said he has not talked to California Gov. Gavin Newsom about Newsom’s recent actions to tackle the problem. Newsom announced on Tuesday night that the state would spend nearly $1 billion per month through a consortium of nonprofits and acquired technology that will provide 200 million medical masks a month for his state and possibly others.

Cuomo floated the idea of an NGA-led consortium on March 28, when he said he would talk to members about the idea of purchasing as a unit and then distributing supplies by need. Cuomo will take over chairmanship of the NGA in August, when he will succeed Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

“This is something that has to be worked out not just for this,” Cuomo said, “but for the future because this can’t happen again.”

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