(The Center Square) – U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer says support for his proposal requiring greater transparency in the travel nursing industry has broadened.
The North Dakota Republican touted support for his proposed Travel Nursing Agency Transparency Study Act (S.4352).
The bill, which Cramer introduced last week, would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study and report to Congress “on the business practices and the effects of hiring agencies across the health care industry during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release from Cramer’s office.
Senator Cramer’s bill has support from the: American Hospital Association (AHA), American Health Care Association (AHCA) / National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), North Dakota Medical Association, North Dakota Hospital Association (NDHA), North Dakota Long Term Care Association, National Rural Health Association, and Vizient, Inc.
Cramer said he is grateful for the broad range of support.
“I appreciate the strong support from a wide array of stakeholders in the healthcare industry for the Travel Nursing Agency Transparency Study Act,” Senator Cramer said in a press release. “Nurses serve on the front line and provide an essential service to our communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, hiring agencies are reportedly taking advantage of the demand created by workforce shortages, charging inflated rates, and keeping a significant percentage for their own profits. Such business operations of these agencies could have far-reaching effects on the quality of our health care system in rural America and must be reviewed. The Travel Nursing Agency Transparency Study Act ensures the business practices of these agencies get the critical sunshine they need. We all deserve a better understanding.”
Cramer’s office says that the healthcare industry already has a labor shortage before the coronavirus pandemic, especially in rural communities. His office says that the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the problem.
Cramer worries that hiring agencies are inflating prices and monopolizing the nursing workforce. He thinks this will negatively impact the healthcare system by increasing the cost of care while making the nursing shortage worse.
North Dakota Medical Association Executive Director Courtney Koebele thinks that Cramer’s bill will lower healthcare costs for Americans.
“The North Dakota Medical Association supports efforts to reduce health care costs and supports Senator Cramer’s efforts to analyze the practices of travel nursing agencies and how it impacts health care and costs,” Koebele said in a press release. “This is a complex issue and deserves a closer look. NDMA is grateful to Senator Cramer for recognizing the situation and bringing the issue forward.”
National Rural Health Association Chief Executive Officer Alan Morgan said the bill is important because of the need for more nurses at rural facilities.
“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Senator Cramer for introducing S. 4352, the Traveling Nursing Agency Transparency Study Act, directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the impact the surge in traveling nurse costs have had on providers,” Morgan said in the news release. “In our historically underserved rural communities, the extreme rise in salaries coupled with increased utilization has created a crisis. NRHA urges Congress to act on this important legislation to further understand the impact traveling nurses have had on the rural health care workforce.”
And American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) President and CEO Mark Parkinson said that the legislation would help assisted living facilities.
“We commend Senator Cramer for introducing this important legislation to investigate the practices of travel nurse agencies, and we encourage members of Congress to support its swift passage,” Parkinson said in the press release. “Nursing homes and assisted living communities are facing a historic workforce shortage, forcing many to turn to temporary staffing agencies in order to ensure residents have enough caregivers. However, many of these agencies are charging two to three times more than pre-pandemic rates, depleting precious resources from long term care facilities when we would prefer to invest in full-time, dedicated caregivers. It’s time to shine a light on these travel nurse agencies.”