April 4, 2024

Does capping wages grow the health care workforce? Hmm, let's see . . .

The Iowa legislature is on the fence about whether it's a prudent move to limit the earnings of "traveler" or "contract" health care workers (this will most directly impact hospital nurses and nursing home CNAs). Their theory is that once the traveler nurse making $80 per hour can again make only $43 per hour as a hospital employee, she/he will quickly return to the fold. 

Probably not. But as one legislator said on a hot mic, "If we could put these contract agencies out of business, we'd do it, but this is as close as we can get." Well, yes, as long as the Iowa Constitution is still around. 

Those posing as worker advocates suggest it's time for "a broader conversation about health care workforce shortages"? Now, that is actually not true. That time was 15 to 20 years ago. To propose that the way to grow our census of health care workers is by limiting their earnings potential is like saying the way to put out a fire is to ban the use of matches. 

But by all means, form another "study group" or "task force" or "collaborative" to consider whether Iowans' access to health care is threatened, especially when registered nurses continue to hold the #1 spot for job openings at IWD and 71% of our rural hospitals are already operating in the red. Tick tock.

Des Moines Register article of April 4, 2024