- In a letter sent to White House officials, the American Hospital Association says staffing agencies are "exploiting" the staffing shortages by charging "uniformly high prices" in a coordinated way, alleging anticompetitive practices.
- Along with the nursing home lobby, AHA is calling on the White House to investigate as hospitals are now paying "exorbitant" rates for nurses and other staffers, according to the letter sent to Jeff Zients, who is leading the White House's COVID-19 response.
- Earlier this week, members of Congress sent a similar letter urging the White House to act as the inflated pay is "exacerbating" the nursing shortage during an already difficult time for hospitals.
COVID-19 has put unprecedented strain on the nation's hospitals and health facilities, forcing hospitals to rely more on traveling nurse agencies when they're short on staff.
With nurses in high demand amid another surge, agencies have raised rates to attract nurses from their traditional posts with significantly higher pay.
"Our organizations have no choice but to pay these exorbitant rates," AHA and the nursing home lobby wrote in the letter to Zients.
The lobbies said these rates are unsustainable. Yet, analysts don't expect wage pressure to relent anytime soon. They expect hospitals will have to try to pass these cost increases on by raising prices in contract negotiations with payers.
AHA has also pushed for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate nurse staffing firms for anticompetitive behavior.
The labor market has been significantly disrupted, hospital leaders have said. HCA executives said nurses shifting to traveling agencies is most acute during surges when they are in high demand and have more opportunities to leave. HCA leaders hope as cases and hospitalizations dwindle, that movement will moderate, according to a call with investors this week.
In response to the steep competition for nurses, many hospitals have tried to entice employees to stay with bumps to wages and bonuses.
It's not just hospitals feeling the effects of the labor movement. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are also short on staff, which disrupts the entire industry.
Hospitals have reported that it's taking longer to discharge certain patients as post-acute facilities such as nursing homes lack the staff.
"The situation is urgent and the reliance on temporary workers has caused normal staffing costs to balloon in all areas of the country," members of Congress said in their letter to the White House.