Members of Congress want the White House to investigate nurse staffing agencies after receiving reports of price gouging.

A bipartisan group of 195 Congress members wrote to the White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator Jeffrey Zient requesting an investigation into reports of alleged price gouging by nurse staffing agencies.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA), accused some nurse staffing agencies of increasing their prices to profit from the pandemic. 

The members of Congress want the enlistment of federal agencies to determine if this conduct is the result of anticompetitive activity or if it violates consumer protection laws.

“We urge you to ensure that this issue gets the attention from the federal government it merits to protect patients in dire need of life-saving health care treatment and prevent conduct that is exacerbating the shortage of nurses and straining the health care system,” the lawmakers stated.

Members have received reports of agencies inflating costs by two times more than their pre-pandemic rates to keep 40 percent of the amount charged as profit. 

“The situation is urgent and the reliance on temporary workers has caused normal staffing costs to balloon in all areas of the country,” stated the lawmakers in the letter.

“We have heard the amounts charged to hospitals rose precipitously as the newest wave of the COVID-19 crisis swept the nation and the agencies seemingly seized the opportunity to increase their bottom line. But, this is not the first time the agencies have engaged in this sort of conduct. As the first wave of COVID-19 swept the nation in 2020, they similarly inflated their prices to hospitals.”

Hospitals are forced to rely on nurse staffing agencies as a result of current COVID-19 surges and shortages of permanent workers.

In the last 12 months, 96 percent of surveyed healthcare facilities hired temporary health professionals, according to an AMN Healthcare survey.

Seventy-three percent of surveyed healthcare facilities stated that filling gaps for vacancies caused by staff departures are the primary reason hospitals hire temporary staff from agencies.

The amount of healthcare workers resigning from their position continues to increase, leaving hospitals with gaps as they try to care for patient needs during COVID surges. Rising patient needs are why 39 percent of respondents use temporary allied healthcare professionals.

In addition, 22 percent of healthcare facility managers indicate that they use temporary allied healthcare professionals to supplement permanent staff during peak usage times.

Over 50 percent of the facilities surveyed stated that temporary allied healthcare professionals had been either moderately or highly involved in addressing COVID-19 patient needs.

“The current surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant continues to put incredible strain on our [healthcare] system, particularly the supply of desperately needed hospital staff, including nursing staff,” said the Congress members. “The situation has affected every state and every corner of the nation, challenging hospitals’ ability to care for their patients due to these dire workforce concerns.”

By Sarai Rodriguez