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GOP VP Nominee Vance calls Republicans champions of the middle class; President Biden is isolating with Covid while sources say Schumer privately urged Biden to step aside in the 2024 election: NY bill addresses monopolies, anti-trust loopholes; ACLU of Alabama launches Project MOVE to boost voter turnout.

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Ohio Sen. JD Vance makes an 'America First' VP nomination acceptance speech. Tough national security talk papers over GOP complexities on foreign policy. Sen. Bob Menendez resigns and President Biden catches COVID.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

MD Bill Would Curb Price Hikes by Health-Care Staffing Agencies

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022   

A bill in the Maryland General Assembly would address price-gouging among health care staffing agencies increasing their rates amid a national worker shortage.

Senate Bill 565 would prevent companies from hiking prices on "essential goods or services" more than 10% during and for three months after a public health emergency.

Sen. Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, the bill's co-sponsor, said she has heard from hospitals and nursing homes travel-nurse agencies have boosted rates as high as $200 an hour, with much of the money not paid to the nurses themselves.

"You can't blame the nurses for applying for jobs with higher wages; it's really about the agencies themselves," Beidle asserted. "In this case, it's a public health emergency, and we can't put our hospitals in that position. There needs to be a limit to how much a staffing agency can make based on this demand issue."

The bill had its first reading in the Senate Finance Committee last week. It's co-sponsored by Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Baltimore. A companion bill, filed in the House by Del. Pamela Queen, D-Rockville, has a hearing in the Economic Matters Committee on Feb. 16. People working on contract as traveling nurses have voiced concerns about limiting their pay, pointing to the risks they take in health care fields.

Hospitals in the state are dealing with 3,900 nurse vacancies, up 50% from the summer, according to the Maryland Hospital Association. Beidle said the labor shortage is a concern for many sectors, including home health care.

"What do you do if you have an elderly or disabled loved one at home, and you can't get help to be with them?" Beidle questioned. "It's a real crisis, so we're trying to do more than just the price-gouging bill, to really try to assist with increasing the number of people that want to be in these occupations."

Beidle has also introduced Senate Bill 696, to provide financial assistance for nurses in Maryland for student-loan repayment. The bill had a first reading in the Senate last week.


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