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Wisconsin Nursing Homes Struggle As Costs Rise

BY LIFE MATTERS MEDIA STAFF

Wisconsin nursing home providers said Medicaid reimbursement rates may have contributed to an increase in nursing home closures in America’s Dairyland last year.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said 10 long-term care facilities closed in the state last year, compared to six in 2016.

Providers told Wisconsin Public Radio that Medicaid reimbursement rates aren’t keeping pace with the costs of providing care, which makes it much more difficult to recruit and retain skilled workers.

John Vander Meer, executive director of the Wisconsin Health Care Association, told the station that an industry survey of 689 providers found 11,500 unfilled caregiver jobs across the state in 2016.

Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature approved raising reimbursement rates for skilled nursing facilities by 2 percent each year under the current budget.

Still, providers are pushing for more.

“We are not in a position to be able to offer competitive wages compared to convenience stores, big box retailers and fast food services,” Vander Meer said.

To help remedy the situation, DHS launched the WisCare Caregiver Career Program, which will invest $2.3 million to add around 3,000 nurse aides.

The state has 388 licensed nursing homes, according to the Directory of Nursing Homes in Wisconsin.