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Wisconsin Home Health Industry Testifies on Medicaid Rates

October 24, 2019 10:44 AM | WiAHC Office (Administrator)

On Wednesday, October 23, the State Senate Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing on Senate Bill 416, which seeks to increase Medicaid rates for home health care services by 10%. Members of the Wisconsin Association for Home Health Care (WiAHC) provided crucial testimony on the need for high Medicaid rates to address the home health care workforce shortage. 

WiAHC members Lisa Kirker and Colleen Shade testified before the committee. Both Kirker and Shade are home health care agency administrators with backgrounds in nursing. Their crucial testimony illustrated the workforce crisis Wisconsin’s home health care agencies face. 

In Wisconsin, Registered Nurses (RNs) are disproportionately represented in nearly all other areas within the healthcare industry. RNs working in home health settings make up just 6% of the total nursing workforce in the state, according to the Wisconsin Center for Nursing. Nationally, RNs working in home health settings make up nearly 13% of the total nursing workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

This is caused, in part, by outdated Medicaid reimbursement rates. Home health agencies have not received a Medicaid reimbursement increase for skilled nursing visits in ten years. When home health agencies do not receive adequate reimbursement, they cannot provide staff with competitive reimbursement. “It is hard to recruit a nurse and be comparable in wages to a hospital,” Kirker told legislators. “When we don’t have staff, we can’t take new patients.” 

Home health agencies need Medicaid rates to keep up with healthcare costs in order to staff agencies and provide low-cost, high-quality healthcare to patients in need. The demand for home health services is only going to increase. 

“We know in 2025, 1.3 million people will be in need of homecare services,” Shade said. “Without an increase, [providing access to services] will continue to be a challenge.” 

Kirker and Shade were grateful for the opportunity to testify and WiAHC hopes the bill will continue through the legislative process. 

The Wisconsin Association for Home Health Care is a membership-based association that represents home health care agencies and their staff across the state. Wisconsin’s home care agencies provide care to Wisconsin residents throughout the year, and the more than 14,000 garners more than $386 million in wages. WiAHC members are committed to make sure home health care remains a high-quality, cost-effective health care option in our state.

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