States slow to act on travel nurse prices

Lawmakers in states across the U.S. are considering proposals targeting travel nurse prices, Kaiser Health News reported. 

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified hospitals' reliance on travel nurses to address staffing shortages and highlighted the gap between full-time workers' pay and lucrative temporary contracts. Despite groups such as the American Hospital Association as early as 2021 urging the federal government to address the issue, no substantial actions have materialized, leaving states to fill the gap, the report said.

Proposed legislation in Missouri would make it a felony to increase temporary healthcare staffing prices during emergencies, according to the publication. 

A proposal in New York would limit the amount a temporary healthcare staffing agency charges a healthcare facility for any employee. In Texas, a proposal would penalize medical staffing services agencies that "charge an exorbitant or excessive price to provide medical staffing services to a healthcare organization or other entity in this state in an area subject to a declared state of disaster."

At least 11 other states also have proposals targeting travel nurse prices, Kaiser Health News reported, citing information from the American Staffing Association industry trade group.

After two years of exponential rises in average pay for travel nurses due to workforce shortages exacerbated by the pandemic and an increase in patients hospitalized from the virus and its subsequent variants, average travel pay trends declined last year and then stabilized nationally, according to a new report from Vivian Health, a national healthcare hiring marketplace, shared with Becker's on Jan. 30.

The report showed that average weekly travel nurse pay climbed from $1,896 in January 2020 to $3,782 in December 2021, a 99.47 percent increase. According to Vivian Health, a new floor for average travel nurse pay materialized in July 2022, at $2,997 per week, as pay declined, then stabilized in the U.S. As of Jan. 5, there were 645,243 active registered nurse travel jobs on the Vivian Health platform nationwide in the last 90 days.

In November 2021, lawmakers urged the White House to probe alleged price gouging by staffing agencies. The American Hospital Association also in 2021 urged the Federal Trade Commission to probe reports of anti-competitive pricing by agencies. 

Now, states are pushing for action. However, varying regulations across states could lead to a different challenge to hospitals in states with rate caps or other restrictions, Hannah Neprash, PhD, a University of Minnesota healthcare economics professor, told Kaiser Health News. She told the publication some facilities could face challenges when it comes to hiring travel nurses or could face a lower-quality hiring pool during a national crisis compared to states without the same restrictions.

To read the full report, click here.


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