– Rep. Tim Bonner’s (R-Mercer/Butler) legislation that would require Contract Health Care Service Agencies that provide temporary nursing workers in nursing homes, assisted living residences and personal care homes to register with Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) as a condition of their operations in the Commonwealth has passed the House of Representatives.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has both exacerbated and accelerated the workforce crisis in Pennsylvania’s long-term care sector,” said Bonner. “I am proposing legislation to help address the proliferation of temporary nurse staffing agencies and the devastating impact they are having on the finances and operation of our long-term care facilities.”
The legislation would require temporary staffing agencies to register with DOH; provide important background information regarding the legality and operation of their entity; require that each nurse have the proper credentials, criminal background checks and malpractice insurance; require Worker’s Compensation coverage; and set due process rights in the event of an alleged violation of requirements set forth in this legislation.
A recent survey of providers conducted and published by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) found that nursing homes have incurred an 18% loss in their workforce and 68% of the facilities are struggling to meet minimum staffing requirements. Due to these shortages, many long-term care providers have been forced to rely on temporary agency staff to fill the critical positions needed to provide care and meet minimum staffing requirements. Long-term sustainability of nursing homes is now becoming a critical concern as 39% of responding facilities stated they cannot afford to keep facilities open for more than a year.
However, throughout the past 19 months, these same temporary staffing agencies have seized on the pandemic and the critical need for workers, and have raised their hourly rates to 100%, 200% or even 400% above the current median wage rate within these long-term care facilities. Not only that, but staffing agencies are recruiting full-time employees from the same long-term care facilities where they’re sending temporary staff, compounding the staffing and financial crisis in the nursing homes, and last-minute call-offs and cancellations from agencies have plagued the sector, especially at the height of the pandemic.
“Currently, state agencies do not have oversight of supplemental health care service agencies. Recognizing the increased role that these agencies play in the day-to-day operations of nearly 700 nursing homes and 1,200 assisted living residences and personal care homes, we must ensure they are operating in a manner that supports the long-term care sector and high-quality resident care,” Bonner said. “This legislation would place registration requirements on health care service agencies operating in long-term care facilities, as well as require a system for reporting complaints and establishing penalties.”
Additionally, more than 70% of all care provided in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes is paid for by the state’s Medicaid program. The Commonwealth is a principal partner in the long-term care continuum, and these excessive hourly rates charged by temporary health care service agencies are draining the already underfunded Medicaid program and taking valuable dollars away from full-time employees and resident care.
“Congress and state legislators are currently investigating temporary staffing agencies and their predatory business practices. This legislation will enable our state government to oversee temporary staffing agencies and address any abuse. I am pleased the House of Representatives gave overwhelming support to this legislation,” said Bonner.
House Bill 2293
now heads to the Senate for consideration.