Nurse staffing ratios could save Illinois hospitals $1.4B, study finds

Proposed legislation establishing limits on the number of patients that can be assigned to registered nurses would save Illinois hospitals about $1.4 billion, according to a study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

The study — which examined economic and public health research — found that the limits would save Illinois hospitals $401 million from reduced nurse turnover; $7 million from decreased injury rates for nurses; $876 million from reduced care costs; and $75 million from lower readmission rates within 30 days of discharge.

Researchers said the savings would offset 75 percent of the increased labor costs hospital lobbyists say would be needed to implement the proposed legislation, HR 2604 and SB 1908.

"Overall, safe patient limits would promote better outcomes for patients, nurses and the people of Illinois — at a net cost impact that amounts to 1 percent of total hospital spending and less than 15 percent of the gross operating surplus of hospitals in Illinois," they concluded.

If passed by Illinois lawmakers and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the proposed legislation would limit hospital nurses to four patients or fewer. Patient-to-nurse ratios would vary by unit.

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association opposes the proposal and called the IEPI report "deeply flawed."

The association previously testified before lawmakers that the state’s proposed nurse staffing legislation could increase healthcare costs by nearly $2 billion annually. A.J. Wilhelmi, president and CEO of the association, also has argued that "there is no conclusive evidence that these one-size-fits-all nurse staffing ratios actually improve patient outcomes or the quality of care."

The Illinois Nurses Association, whose executive director serves on the IEPI board, supports the legislation, saying it would reduce healthcare errors and nurse burnout and save lives.


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