SIOUX CITY —
An Iowa law that allows retired public health care professionals to quickly return to work part time while collecting their state pension is due to expire this summer, though hospitals are pushing for an extension.
The law has helped ensure there were enough nurses at state-run hospitals. Some groups argue the law is no longer needed, but Iowa hospitals want the exception extended, the Sioux City Journal reports.
The exception allows public health care workers to return to work just a month after retiring. And if they work for a public hospital, workers can collect benefits from the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System while earning a second benefit check.
Most state employees can return to work after four months of retirement, but hospitals say the provision helps health care providers fill part-time positions when they are short staffed.
Iowa Hospital Association spokesman Scott McIntyre says keeping the exception would help hospitals find needed workers.
“Hospitals are unique in that half of Iowa hospitals are private, half are public,” McIntyre said. “Without this provision, a retiree could simply drive down the road a ways and continue part-time work in the private sector.”
But officials with the state retirement system say the practice adds costs because retired workers earn more benefits than younger ones.
Officials with the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System estimate that the practice of allowing older workers to retire and return to work costs the system about $9 million a year. That may seem small when compared to the agency’s roughly $25 billion in assets, but it’s significant given the agency’s estimated $6 billion shortfall, spokeswoman Judy Akre said.
Hospital officials in northwest Iowa say they recently haven’t had problems finding nurses. Souxland District Health Director Kevin Grieme said he hasn’t hired any retirees for his 12 nursing jobs, and any vacancies can usually be filled within six weeks.
The Iowa Hospital Association’s annual survey indicates a 5 percent vacancy rate among registered nurses in Iowa in 2012. That rate climbed as high as 8 percent in 2001.
Officials with the Iowa Board of Nursing said the data doesn’t support the idea that there currently is a shortage of nurses in the state.