Another round of tariffs on Chinese goods could leave skilled nursing providers scrambling to afford or replace gloves and other heavily used healthcare supplies.
Among the latest proposed items for increased import fees are medical gloves, surgical drapes and even cotton pillow shells. The American Health Care Association has asked specifically for the Trump administration to remove wet wipes; drapes; vinyl exam and surgeon gloves; nitrile exam and surgeon gloves; and underpads/incontinence drapes from the latest proposed list.
“Although these products are relatively inexpensive compared to other costs in the health care system, they are used in very large volumes,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer. “Thus, even a small tariff when multiplied by the literally tens of millions of each of these individual products consumed in any single month results in a very large cost increase.”
In seeking the exemptions in a letter dated June 12, Parkinson noted that gloves and underpads account for approximately 50% of total spending on medical devices at the average skilled nursing facility.
In May, Trump raised tariffs on Chinese imports under List 3 of Section 301 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 from 10% to 25%. But the administration removed some critical healthcare products, noting that they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The new tariffs would apply to List 4, which includes more than 3,800 categories covering most textiles, footwear, apparel like compression socks and even small electric filaments needed for surgical instruments. It excludes “critical minerals,” pharmaceuticals and select medical goods, according to international trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg.
Companies were given until Monday (June 17) to request groups of products be excluded from tariffs.
In AHCA’s submission, Parkinson argued that the imposition of even a low tariff on wipes, drapes and gloves “will result in a substantial increase in patient costs and translate to higher healthcare costs for the broader US economy.”
“These products serve a vital role in providing safe, efficient care to our residents and are subject to strict FDA requirements and regulations — including a two-year review period,” he added in a statement Tuesday. “As a result, most long-term care facilities do not have the ability to readily switch from their current FDA approved products to alternative, non-Chinese suppliers.”
The latest tariffs could go into effect any time after June 24.