Assisted living providers and direct care workers stand to benefit from a potential $77 million investment in the long-term care workforce in Wisconsin.
As part of Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget proposal, the state’s Family Care Medicaid waiver program, which serves older adults and adults with disabilities in assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities, stands to receive an additional $15 million. Federal matching funds would make the total investment $77.8 million. The increase would fund the program’s Direct Care Workforce Fund.
Rick Abrams, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living, said the proposal, which the WHCA lobbied for, includes essential funding increases critical for the future of long-term care. The proposal ensures “dollars get to the people providing care,” he told McKnight’s Senior Living.
Evers’ budget proposal also includes an additional $94.6 million in funding for nursing facilities in the state. Federal matching funds would bring the grand total investment in nursing care to $241 million, which is an 11.5% increase in the first year of the biennium and an 11.7% increase in the second year.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated an ongoing crisis within long-term care: inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates have led to a caregiver workforce shortage, where one in four caregiver positions remains vacant in Wisconsin,” Abrams said in a statement. “This funding proposal to increase skilled nursing reimbursement and Family Care funding will deliver real, tangible benefits to long-term care providers and the frail elderly and residents with disabilities they serve every day.”
According to the WHCA, most long-term care providers experienced rate cuts when the Family Care program was first implemented. Over time, providers saw little or no rate increases in the program, despite rising costs. New provider reimbursement methodologies are needed to reflect transparency, actual cost of care and rising expenses, according to the association.
Wisconsin has high levels of caregiver vacancy rates in long-term care, WHCA said, with average vacancy rates at 23.5%. An estimated 20,655 caregiver positions are vacant in the state’s assisted living and nursing facilities now.
With 80% of those providers’ operating budget focused on workforce expenses, providers have limited options to absorb reimbursement reductions, according to the association. The additional $77.8 million investment in the direct care workforce would help address the workforce crisis.
The Wisconsin Assisted Living Association and LeadingAge Wisconsin also support the budget proposal.