Nursing homes in Eau Claire and Dallas, WI, announced this week that they were closing, with both blaming inadequate Medicaid reimbursements for the decision to move 77 combined residents.

John Vander Meer, executive director of the Wisconsin Health Care Association, said in a news release that the closures continue a state trend.

“In the last year, 16 facilities have had to close their doors due to low reimbursement and an ongoing workforce shortage,” he said. “While long-term care providers are grateful to Gov. Walker and the Legislature for including a 2 percent skilled nursing reimbursement increase in the 2017-19 budget, these closures demonstrate that there is much more to be done, and the time is now for the state to consider systemic skilled nursing Medicaid reimbursement reform.”

In downtown Eau Claire, Syverson Rehab and Health will close after transferring its 47 residents, a process that could take up to four months, Grace Lutheran Communities said in a news release.

Len Fast, administrator of Care & Rehab-Dallas, told the Leader-Telegram his 30-resident home also will close once the last resident is placed.

“The reality of this closing takes a toll on everyone — mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Grant Thayer, CEO of Care & Rehab. “First and foremost, we have taken every precaution to reduce stress on our fragile residents who are forced to uproot their lives, leave their homes and move to an unfamiliar new place.”

At one point, Grace Lutheran planned to continue operating the first floor of its nursing home. But annual expenses totaling about $700,000 are forcing the closure instead, said Michael Christensen, CEO of Grace Lutheran Communities.

He attributed the losses to “inadequate Medicaid reimbursements from the state level.”

“It’s not that the facility isn’t in demand,” Christensen told the newspaper, noting Syverson had 90% occupancy over the past six months.

Christensen noted that 10 senior care facilities closed in Wisconsin last year, putting a spotlight on what a difficult time it is for the industry.

“We need the state of Wisconsin to make a commitment to fund the Medicaid program,” Christensen said. “There’s a tremendous impact on the nursing home providers by the fact that Wisconsin does not fund Medicaid residents.”

Likewise, Fast blamed the Dallas closure on Wisconsin’s Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s nation-worst skilled nursing Medicaid reimbursement has led to an ongoing workforce crisis, and due to access concerns and workforce challenges, the facility is forced to close,” Fast said.