The future of health care in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin skilled nursing homes are closing. In the past four years, multiple nursing homes have closed across the state. According to the Wisconsin Health Association, Medicaid shortfalls for Wisconsin were the highest in the nation the past two years. The year prior to that we were 49th, year prior to that 48th.

Sometimes it is difficult to "connect the dots," but we need to because it affects the entire nation. A study conducted by Leading Age Wisconsin found that Wisconsin skilled nursing facilities experienced a $331.8 million “Medicaid Deficit” in 2014-15. This is the difference between costs facilities incur caring for Medicaid residents and the reimbursement the state receives. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that if Gov. Scott Walker would have accepted the federal funding, it would have saved $500 million over a 3½ year window.

Wisconsin long term care facilities have done a survey that bears out a greater than 10 percent vacancy rate for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs).

When nursing homes aren’t getting reimbursed, they are unable to a pay living wage. This results in staff turnover, mandated overtime, copious amounts of time and money spent on recruiting and training. As consumers we only see what affects our family — call lights not answered as quickly as one would like, feeding at meals taking longer, staff unfamiliar with a person’s special needs.

How can this be fixed? Contact Gov. Walker, he holds the power to accept this federal funding. In Wisconsin, about 70 percent of nursing home residents depend on this. Contact your state legislative representatives let them know that we need to accept the monies, and educate them to support LPN programs, quality nursing assistant training, continuing education, etc. Contact your member of Congress on the need for negotiating medication prices. Be an advocate to know what is happening.

Call your legislative representatives. Let them know how you feel and how you have been affected. Ask them to have a town hall meeting, then attend. Send them an e-mail letting them know what your expectation is for caring for the frail, elderly, and disabled.

Carolyn Kaiser

Elk Mound

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Chippewa Herald editor

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