The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHCPO) and its Hospice Action Network advocacy affiliate are backing legislation requiring an investigation into the effects hiring agencies have had on the healthcare industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Travel Nursing Agency Transparency Act would require the General Accountability Office to conduct a study to find out if traveling nurse agencies gouged providers, patients and taxpayers during the pandemic when demand for clinicians climbed.
“Hospices and palliative care providers have experienced nursing shortages pre-COVID, but the pandemic has exacerbated the issue,” Ben Marcantonio, interim president of NHPCO and President of HAN, said in a statement. “Hospices cannot compete with the high contract, excessive rates required by travel nursing agencies. These agencies appear to have capitalized on the public health emergency by charging exorbitant rates,”
In June, Sen. Keven Cramer (R-ND) and Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC) introduced bills in both the House and Senate to study hiring agencies following anecdotal reports that they were inflating prices and monopolizing the nursing workforce during the pandemic. The lawmakers believe inflated pricing may have increased the cost of healthcare and put additional strain on the entire healthcare system.
Earlier this year, home care and hospice firms, including LHC Group and Amedisys, reported challenging first quarters due to continued labor headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic. Both firms said increased costs from contract nurses filling in for quarantined staff cut into profits. In recent months, the cost burden has lessened for those companies as the pandemic has receded.