Recent changes to state rules governing the staffing practices of nursing agencies will make it easier for Illinois nursing homes to hire temporary and part-time nurses by addressing some concerns about agency practices, according to observers.
The amendments prohibit non-competition agreements between nurse staffing agencies and certified nurses or licensed practical nurses and impose additional reporting requirements. Implemented on Monday, the law applies to non-compete agreements signed on or after July 1, 2022.
The implications for providers are significant, said Matt Hartman, executive director of the Illinois Health Care Association and the Illinois Center for Assisted Living, chief negotiators of the legislation.
“Greater accountability for agencies that have largely benefited from staffing shortages during the pandemic,” Hartman said. “It also allows us some flexibility by giving nurses options as to where and how they can choose to work.
“There were additional changes that we would have liked to see, including caps on agency profits and the fees that agencies charge beyond what they pay their nurses, which we have seen increase astronomically. “, he added.
Non-compete clauses, conversion fees, and the barriers they imposed discouraged nurses from looking for in-house jobs, Hartman said.
Changes to the Nursing Agencies Licensing Act will protect the right of temporary nurses and nurse aides to change jobs or be hired directly by a healthcare facility, the department’s acting director added of Illinois Labor, Jane Flanagan.
“It will also increase the stability and transparency of the health sector in the state. As the pandemic has repeatedly illustrated, healthcare workers and the healthcare sector are critical to the well-being of the people of Illinois,” noted a summary prepared by law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC
Agencies must list the salaries to be paid to nurses and CNAs in contracts and demonstrate that they pay those rates in full, with all new contracts provided to the state Department of Labor within five days. Violations of the new IDOL rules could include civil penalties of $10,000 (instead of $1,000) each.
The decision by the General Assembly this week comes less than a year after qualified nursing leaders called on the federal government to tackle anti-competitive behavior in the temporary staffing market.
Observers say the law’s revisions are designed to shed light on the agencies’ business and hiring practices.
At the federal level, the Travel Nursing Agency Transparency Study Act would require the Government Accountability Office to study potential price gouging and “excessive profit taking”; the difference between the rates paid to contract nurses and the amount billed to facilities; and the extent to which federal funds, including Provider Relief dollars, were used by providers to pay agencies during pandemic-era labor shortages.