Brent Willett. (IHCA photo)

Seventeen Iowa nursing homes closed last year. Iowa Health Care Association CEO Brent Willett says all but two were in rural communities.

“These facilities are closing as a result of financial strain, primarily related to the cost of staffing facilities,” Willett says. “Year on year wage inflation of more than 15% has bitten into the sector. Medicaid rates have not moved in those two years and facilities in these smaller communities have found it impossible to continue to operate.”

The Medicaid program pays for the care of over half of Iowa nursing home residents. Governor Reynolds is recommending an increase in Medicaid daily rate for nursing home care. Willett says he’s optimistic legislators will agree to increase that reimbursement rate.

“It’s going to be a question of where to find those dollars and whether we can find enough to kind of stave off this wave of closures that we’re currently experiencing,” Willett says.

Medicaid reimbursement rate currently covers about 80% of the daily cost of care for a nursing home resident.

“Identifying ways to close that gap rapidly are of a significant level of urgency for everyone involved,” Willett says.

About seven out of 10 Iowa nursing homes are holding beds open as a way to deal with the staffing shortages and budget shortfalls according to a recent Iowa Health Care Association survey. In the past two years, 39 Iowa nursing homes have closed — reducing the number of nursing home beds in the state by more than 800.

Facilities are required to provide 60 days notice of a closure and help residents find care in another nursing home. Willett says it means residents have had to move farther away from family and friends — and they often have to adjust to a new primary caregiver. “It’s created challenges both logistically and in terms of just the experience of those residents,” Willett says.

Nationally, 129 nursing homes closed in 2022 and 13% of them were in Iowa.

According to the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the following Iowa nursing homes closed in 2022: Patty Elwood Center in Cresco, Good Samaritan Society in Fontanell, Good Samaritan Society in Postville, Westmont Care Center in Logan, ABCM Rehabilitation Centers East Campus in Independence, Greene County Medical Center in Jefferson, Sunnycrest Nursing Center in Dysart, Dumont Wellness Center in Dumont, Grinnell Health Care Center in Grinnell, Jefferson Place in Pella, Big Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Community in Polk City, Touchstone Health Care Community in Sioux City, Morningside Care Center in Ida Grove, QHC Humboldt South in Humboldt, Good Samaritan Society in Newell, Nelson Manor in Newton and Heritage Care Center in Iowa Falls.

Radio Iowa