NEWS
June 15, 2022

Travel Nurse Pay Transparency Bill Passed in Illinois

Travel Nurse Pay Transparency Bill Passed in Illinois
Kathleen Gaines
By: Kathleen Gaines News and Education Editor, MSN, RN, BA, CBC

Travel nursing is about to be turned on its heels. 

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker recently signed a bill that will reform the labor practices of travel nurse staffing agencies. The bill is due to take effect on July 1st. 

“This bill critically protects temporary nurses and nurse aides’ right to change jobs or get hired directly by a healthcare facility. It will also increase stability and transparency in the healthcare industry in the state. As the pandemic illustrated time and time again, healthcare workers and the healthcare industry are critical to the well-being of the people of Illinois,” said Illinois Department of Labor Acting Director Jane Flanagan.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the need for nurses grew exponentially, causing healthcare facilities to rely on short-term staffing solutions. This came in the form of travel nurses. Highly-paid and sought-after travel nurses who worked for travel nursing agencies that were earning massive profits. 

States around the country were begging nurses to work at their facilities and offering skyrocketing wages, allowing some travel nurses to take home over $10,000 a week. Granted the hours were long, the shifts impossible, and the risk of exposure high - many nurses jumped at the opportunities. 

And while travel nurses were able to earn above-average wages during the pandemic (and rightfully so!), travel nursing agencies also saw record-breaking profits and massively inflated bill rates. So much so that some agencies are now being investigated for predatory practices. 

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About HB 4666

HB 4666 amends the Nurse Agency Licensing Act and requires travel nursing agencies to, 

  • Transparency around rates and fees charged
  • Increase Nurse Agency reporting on their pay and labor practices
  • Expand protections for workers referred by nurse agencies 

In summary, the bill states the following:

  • Nurse staffing agencies are prohibited from entering into covenants not to compete with nurses and certified nurse aides.
  • Nurse staffing agencies are prohibited from requiring the payment of liquidated damages, conversion fees, employment fees, buy-out fees, placement fees, and or other compensation if the employee is hired as a permanent employee of the health care facility.
  • Nurse staffing agencies must disclose new contracts with facilities to IDOL within 5 business days of the effective date (protected from FOIA).
  • Wage rates paid to nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) must match the wage rates identified in the contract. Failure to do so allows IDOL to recover underpaid wages for the worker.

The new reporting requirements include the following:

  • Nurse staffing agencies must submit quarterly reports related to average charges to health care facilities to IDOL.
  • IDOL must publish yearly a report by county of average amounts paid to employees and charged to health care facilities.

A few questions remain regarding this bill and its implications,

  • Does this only impact travel nurses' work within the state of Illinois?
  • What if the staffing agency is based out of Illinois? 
  • Will nurses working in other states but placed by the company be affected?

Read the entire bill here. 

While there is still some confusion surrounding the bill and exactly what it means for travel nurses, it is the first step in ensuring the money hospitals are paying for nurses is seen by nurses. 

Travel Nurse Pay Packages Exposed 

Travel nurse staffing agencies essentially collect a “finders fee” for each nurse they place in a specific contract. 

  • The specific amount that travel nurses are paid varies based on the agency and the contract - the hospital pays the agency a set bill rate. Yet, it is the travel nursing agency that decides how much the travel nurse is paid. Travel nurses could be working the same contract, on the same unit, for the same hospital and could be paid totally different amounts based on their travel nursing agency. It is taboo for travel nurses to discuss their pay packages with other travelers. 
  • The majority of travel nurses do not know the exact bill rate. It is rare to find a travel nursing agency that will disclose the bill rate to their travel nurses. Travel nurses are only told what their rate of pay is - this is usually split between a travel nurse’s hourly taxable rate and a non-taxed housing stipend. Travel nurses do not know the rate that which the agency is profiting.
  • As travel nurse pay is being slashed, travel nurses are quickly realizing that the bill rate and the amount that the agency keeps as profit is quite substantial - they might not be paid fairly for their time and sacrifices

There is legislation in a few states to cap travel nurse pay

How Will Compliance Be Monitored?

The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is responsible for overseeing the staffing agencies and will be monitoring their compliance with the new bill amendments. 

Tell us your thoughts about this new bill and what it could mean for you. Head over to our Instagram @nurse_org  and let us know if this will affect you! 

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