A federal investigation into alleged price gouging tactics being used by temporary staffing agencies against strained providers could be coming under the Biden administration.
Nearly 200 House lawmakers, led by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA), wrote a letter to the White House COVID-19 Response Team coordinator calling on federal agencies with competition and consumer protection authority to investigate staffing firms’ conduct and practices.
The lawmakers want to determine whether staffing agencies are taking advantage of the pandemic to increase profits at the expense of patients and providers, and whether their actions violate anti-competitive laws.
“The situation is urgent and the reliance on temporary workers has caused normal staffing costs to balloon in all areas of the country,” the lawmakers wrote. “We have received reports that the nurse staffing agencies are vastly inflating prices, by two, three or more times pre-pandemic rates, and then taking 40% or more of the amount being charged to the hospitals for themselves in profits.”
The group added that providers have no choice but to pay the exorbitant rates because of the dire workforce needs across the country.
The letter specifically addresses alleged price gouging experienced by short-staffed hospitals. Long-term care providers, however, also have sought federal government intervention that would force temporary staffing agencies to rein in exorbitant pricing tactics.
The inflated rates also come at a time when 55% of nursing homes and senior living facilities say they’re competing with staffing agencies for an already scarce supply of workers.
“Thank you for your attention to the matter, these costs are simply unsustainable for many health systems across the country,” the lawmakers concluded. “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 did not set a deadline for a response.