Pharma & Life Sciences

Health-Care Worker Violence Rule Could Cost Billions

Oct. 9, 2019, 9:04 PM

A proposed federal law protecting health-care workers from on-the-job violence would cost hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities at least $1.35 billion annually to comply, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in an Oct. 9 report.

The bill (H.R. 1309), introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), seeks to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write a workplace violence prevention rule and issue it within 42 months of the bill becoming law.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics last year reported that health-care and social-service workers were nearly five times as likely to be attacked and suffer an injury than workers in other sectors.

The whole House has not considered the legislation. As of Oct. 9, the bill had 224 co-sponsors—all but seven are Democrats. The House Committee on Education and Labor approved the measure June 11.

Tom Nickels, executive vice president for the American Hospital Association, said hospitals “continue to invest significant resources to ensure a safe environment.” However, Nickels added, the CBO report estimate of $14 billion in additional costs over 10 years is concerning and would require an increased investment not currently anticipated in the bill.

Courtney’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The CBO said the rule would affect hundreds of thousands of mostly private health-care facilities, ranging from large hospitals to walk-in emergency care clinics.

Compliance costs for private facilities would be at least $2.7 billion over the first two years the rule was in effect, the CBO estimated. The price for public facilities would be at least $100 million in the initial two years.

In the long-term, combined compliance costs for the private and public sectors would run at least $1.35 billion annually, the CBO said.

Driving the costs would be training, changes to buildings, and investigative costs.

The CBO said some of the costs could be mitigated by lower expenses for workers’ compensation, but the office didn’t give an estimate on those savings.

The bill’s direct cost to the federal government was estimated at $60 million through 2029. The higher spending would come from increasing OSHA staff to write and implement the bill and higher Medicare payments to health-care facilities to partially cover their expenses, the CBO said.

The CBO acknowledged that without a final rule to use when calculating costs, there’s a “fair amount of uncertainty.” The CBO also couldn’t determine how much of the industry already has violence prevention programs in place, a factor that would reduce costs.

California, Illinois, Minnesota, and Oregon are among the states with health-care worker protection mandates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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