Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to trim heavy training requirements on certified nursing assistants in an effort to help fill vacancies.

The Badger State currently requires CNAs to complete 120 hours of schooling, compared to just 75 in neighboring states. Staffing shortages have helped contribute to a dozen nursing facilities closing in 2019, observers say.

“We have a shrinking market and low pay due to a low reimbursement rate in Medicare and Medicaid,” Joey Pettis, RN, head of the Wisconsin Director of Nurses Council, told WSAW. Potential employees who have found they don’t meet the higher requirements are, instead, turning to bartending and waitressing “because it is not worth their time or effort to go through the course again,” Pettis added.

Industry advocates had pushed for a Medicaid pay hike to address inadequate wages, but legislators balked. Assembly Bill 76 would instead bring Wisconsin’s training requirements in line with federal standards. Analyses have found that requiring almost twice as many training hours does not translate to better quality care, experts noted.

LeadingAge Wisconsin reports that 11 of the state’s nursing homes have already closed this year and another 27 are in receivership. Low Medicaid rates, a shortage of workers and shifting demand toward assisted living facilities are all contributing, said President John Sauer. Advocates are pushing for an additional $83 million to address the deepening crisis.

“If we keep going the way we’re going, there will be a significant access issue to quality nursing facilities,” Sauer told the Wisconsin State Journal.