Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ Task Force on Caregiving voted Thursday to approve 16 recommendations ranging from better pay and benefits for professional caregivers, to expansion of the Medicaid program, to improved training opportunities for those workers.

Evers created the task force in 2019, and it has been meeting to address a shortage of direct care workers in assisted living communities, nursing homes and home care agencies. 

“Wisconsin’s assisted living providers have been dealing with a caregiver shortage crisis for some time, which has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wisconsin Assisted Living Association CEO Michael S. Pochowski told McKnight’s Senior Living. He is a member of the task force representing the assisted living providers. “The Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving has been meeting over the past year to develop policy proposals to help alleviate the caregiver crisis,” Pochowski added.

The policy proposals center on issues related to the direct care workforce and home care providers, including wage reform, training, Medicaid regulatory guidelines and recruitment, in addition to family caregiving.

Of the 16 proposals, Porchowski said three benefit assisted living providers and fall under the direct care workforce – rates category:

  • Create rate bands for transparent, equitable and sustainable rates for community-based long-term care service and supports.
  • Provide annual increases to the existing Direct Care Workforce Funding program, which allows assisted living providers who participate in the Medicaid waiver to provide wage increase directly to caregivers. 
  • Require a medical loss ratio of at least 85% for direct care services, limiting the managed care organizations’ administration and case management expenses to 15% of the capitation rate under the Medicaid waiver program. 

The task force report is expected to be published and submitted to the governor in October for consideration as Evers prepares his 2021-2023 biennial budget recommendations, according to LeadingAge Wisconsin.

One in four direct caregiver positions at Wisconsin’s assisted living communities and nursing homes is vacant, according to a survey from WALA, LeadingAge Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Health Care Association / Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living, and the Disability Service Provider Network. That report — The Long-Term Care Workforce Crisis: A 2020 Report — stated that approximately 9,700 caregivers left long-term care for jobs outside of healthcare in the past year.

The vacancy rate is up from the organizations’ 2018 publication, which reported an average caregiver vacancy rate of 19% for providers in the Badger State. The rate in 2016 was 14.5%.