Iowa House backs pay caps for traveling nurses

DES MOINES — The Iowa House has voted to set limits for the pay of temporary nursing staff working in Iowa hospitals and nursing homes.

A traveling nurse could be paid no more than 150% of the statewide average wage being paid to full-time health care staff who provide nursing services. The bill is a priority for House Republicans, who contend temp agencies are reaping too much of the extra money the legislature has provided nursing homes.

Representative Timi Brown-Powers, a Democrat from Waterloo, is a therapist at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, She said the bill addresses a big budget problem for hospitals and nursing homes. “It’s a morale issue for health care workers that have been there, stuck in there …working alongside traveling nurses making three or four times what they’re making,” Brown-Powers said.

The bill passed on an 80-17 vote. Representative John Forbes, a Democrat from Urbandale who opposed the
bill, said there appeared to be some price gouging going on as health care employment agencies responded to workforce vacancies during the pandemic. “My concern is that if, in the future, we are putting caps or telling businesses how much they can charge for services, the businesses may not want to do business in Iowa,” Forbes said.

None of the House Republicans outlined their reasons for voting for the pay caps during the six-minute-long debate of the bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration.