Debate Over Capping Temporary Nurse Rates For Iowa Nursing Homes

Des Moines, Iowa — Agencies that provide temporary staff for Iowa long-term care facilities are calling on lawmakers to table a plan to limit how much they charge.

A bill that’s cleared the Iowa House would cap charges for so-called traveling nurses at 150 percent of the statewide average wage for nurses who working in nursing homes. Bob Livonius is on the board of directors for Grapetree Medical Staffing agency in Milford. He says temp agencies will stop doing business with Iowa nursing homes if there’s a cap on what they can charge, just like what’s happened in the only two states that currently cap pay for traveling nurses working in nursing homes.

Others warn the move would lead to staffing shortages in nursing homes. Greg Opseth is chief operating officer for Hiland Medical Staffing in Gowrie.

A lobbyist for the Iowa Nurses Association says nurses feel singled out, since there are other traveling medical professionals, like doctors, who aren’t included in the proposed pay limitation. Brent Willett, president and CEO of the Iowa Health Care Association, says if the cap were implemented on traveling nurses, Iowa long-term care facilities would be able to redirect an estimated 22 million dollars on full-time staff.

Senator Jason Schulte, a Republican from Schleswig, says some temp agencies appear to be pocketing a lot of money and, while that’s capitalism, a lot of tax dollars are being spent on nursing home care through the Medicaid program and he’s not ruling out some sort of limits on what temp agencies can charge.

A senate committee will review the proposal later this week.



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