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The Toll of ‘Pandemic Profiteering’

Lawmakers consider solutions to address price gouging, ‘unconscionable’ price increases for PPE, masks, and other items

February 02, 2022

Members of Congress are evaluating whether state and federal officials need additional authority to address price gouging and other “unconscionable price hikes” that have affected health care and the broader economy.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce hosted a hearing on “pandemic profiteering.” The hearing was part of ongoing discussions about the COVID–19 Price Gouging Prevention Act, which aims to address the selling of consumer goods or services related to the public health emergency at excessive or unreasonable prices. The bill would provide authority for the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to enforce the requirements within the law.

The panel of testifiers included Sarah Frasch, chief deputy attorney general and director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.

During her testimony, Frasch said that price gouging undermines the public’s faith in our economy during times of crisis and highlighted limitations within existing state laws.

“In certain cases, like the nurses and other front line workers who have served their fellow citizens so ably throughout this crisis, it makes it more difficult to get them the gear they need to keep them safe on the job,” she said of price gouging in prepared remarks.

Among the topics discussed during the hearing:

  • The rising cost of everyday goods, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, as well as essential health care items like personal protective equipment and respirators
  • The ways that supply chain disruptions have influenced demand and put additional pressure on pricing
  • The ways that federal monetary policy has influenced pricing and inflation
  • Potential legislative solutions to regulate price gouging at the state and federal levels and limitations within current statutes

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community continue to focus on delivering efficient, high-quality care while addressing rising prices for prescription drugs, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies and equipment during the pandemic.

In addition, during November, HAP sent a letter to Attorney General Josh Shapiro asking him to investigate whether alleged price gouging by staffing agencies violates any state laws. HAP will continue to advocate on behalf of Pennsylvania’s hospital community as they address these challenges.

A replay of today’s hearing is available online.

For more information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s senior vice president of advocacy and external affairs.