The state of Wisconsin is known for its beer and cheese, but for those who call the state home, it is much more than that. Wisconsin has beautiful bluffs, dells and hills to explore, lakefront cities that take advantage of the waterfront and the excellent health care options of the University of Wisconsin hospital system, which is the state’s top-ranked hospital for senior care.  These perks make it appealing for Wisconsin residents to retire in the state. The 2019 population estimate for Wisconsin is 5,822,434 people, and 17.5% of the population is aged 65 and older.

Nursing home care offers skilled nursing services at all times for medically frail seniors. The average cost for nursing home care in the state is $8,684 for a semiprivate room and $9,429 for a private room, according to the 2020 Genworth Cost of Care Survey. Wisconsin retirees who need nursing home care have 355 nursing homes to choose from. A Medicaid program that puts the choice of care in the hands of the senior and the senior’s family makes Wisconsin an appealing place to retire. This guide can help seniors understand those options and how to use Medicaid to pay for nursing care.

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Wisconsin

The cost for nursing home care in Wisconsin is right in the center of the states around it. For services in a semiprivate room, Wisconsin residents pay an average of $8,684 a month, according to the 2020 Genworth Cost of Care Survey. This is significantly less than the cost in Minnesota of $11,026. It’s also less than Michigan’s cost of $8,973. However, Illinois, with a cost of $6,235 a month, and Iowa, with a cost of $6,570 a month, are both significantly lower than the Wisconsin average. The national average of $7,756 a month is less than the Wisconsin average.




The United States









Seniors will find that the cost of nursing home care varies within the state as well. Both the amenities of the community and its location can impact the cost of care. The state average of $8,684 is similar to the average in the Wausau area, which is $8,851 and La Crosse, which is $8,144. Janesville, near the Illinois state line, has the highest cost, at $9,612, while Eau Claire comes in lowest, at $7,756. Fond du Lac averages $7,902, while Milwaukee comes in much higher, at $9,429. In Appleton, seniors pay around $8,502 for nursing home care.


Eau Claire


Fond du Lac


La Crosse









Not all seniors who need assistance will choose nursing home care. The average cost for a semiprivate room in Wisconsin is $8,684, while seniors who prefer a private room pay about $800 more a month. The most affordable care option is adult day care, which averages $1,322 a month. Seniors who choose to get a little extra help in an assisted living facility can expect to pay around $4,400 a month. For both home care and home health care, the monthly state average is $4,957.


Nursing Home Semiprivate Room


Nursing Home Private Room


Adult Day Care


Assisted Living Facility


Home Care


Home Health Care

Does Medicaid Cover Nursing Home Care in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the 1.288 million residents currently enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP includes 8,515 seniors ages 65 and older. Recipients who live in nursing homes have the cost of their room and board covered as well as their medical supplies, medicines, social services and medical care. Specific medical services provided by therapists or specialists are also included in Medicaid coverage.

A percentage of seniors living in each of the 348 nursing homes located throughout Wisconsin receive Medicaid assistance, along with 24/7 care and attention. Wisconsin’s Medicaid State Plan, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, provides coverage for care, including medically necessary supplies, prescriptions and transportation to other health care providers, such as dentists or ophthalmologists. Those seniors wanting to remain at home or in their communities while receiving skilled nursing may qualify for other Wisconsin Medicaid programs such as Family Care and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly

Medicaid Eligibility in Wisconsin

Qualifying for Medicaid requires meeting specific income and medical criteria. Applicants must provide details regarding all forms of income for themselves and their spouses, even if only one is seeking coverage. A financial assessment is included as part of the application process. 

Limits for income and assets are fixed and dependent on whether one or both spouses are applying. For a single applicant, income is limited to $30,267 per year, with an asset limit of $2,000 during the same time period. In a two-person household where only one person is applying, the income limit is the same, as is the asset limit for the applicant. The non-applicant spouse, however, is able to retain up to $137,400 in assets through the Spousal Impoverishment Act. In cases where both spouses seek coverage, the income limit increases to $60,552 and the asset limit to $3,000.   

2022 Medicaid Income Limits for Seniors in Wisconsin

Annual Income Limits

Asset Limits

Single Applicant



Two-Person Household

(Only One Person Applying)


$2,000 for applicant 

$137,400 for non-applicant

Two-Person Household
(Both People Applying)



Additional non-financial requirements include proof of U.S. citizenship and state residency.

How to Apply for Medicaid in Wisconsin

To submit a Medicaid application, seniors or caregivers can visit the ACCESS Wisconsin site, create an account and complete the online application. Other ways to apply include calling the local county agency, printing and mailing the application packet or going in person to the local agency, where a worker will help applicants complete a paper or virtual application. All paperwork needs to be prepared prior to starting the application. Once submitted, application results take 30 days. A follow-up pre-hearing conference is encouraged for any application where benefits are denied, reduced or ended.

Information You Will Need:

  • State driver’s license, valid U.S. passport, Native American tribal enrollment document or other proof of identity
  • Copy of birth certificate, adoption papers, or military, hospital or other record showing proof of U.S. birthplace
  • Tribal enrollment card, tribal census or other document proving tribal membership or Native American / Alaska Native Descent
  • Bank statements, financial records and all other documents showing total assets for  60 months before date of application
  • Life insurance policies
  • Deeds, contracts or titles
  • Pension, Social Security and all other retirement income for previous 60 months
  • Lease, rental agreement or mortgage receipt showing current address before date of application
  • Final will, trust or power of attorney documents, if applicable
  • Any other documentation applicant believes may support their claim

Additional Medicaid Support & Resources in Wisconsin

Below is a list of contact information and free resources that may help make the Medicaid application process easier to navigate and less convoluted for families.




Varies by county

Operating in every county across the state, Aging and Disability Resources Centers can help families apply for Medicaid both in person and over the phone. They provide information about long-term care, including specifics regarding Medicaid financial requirements, the lookback period and exclusion forward.

Online Only

In addition to covering all aspects of Medicaid planning, the American Council on Aging offers a prescreening eligibility test that tells families their projected eligibility status. A comprehensive question and answer section, detailed pages on state-specific eligibility and estate planning help are available to help families understand the process and plan ahead. 

(800) 362-3002

Providing basic information about Medicaid eligibility by state, is a federal website that delivers general information about income limitations and eligibility requirements. Links are included to sites where additional information about Medicaid and the application can be found. 

Does Medicare Cover Nursing Home Care in Wisconsin?

Medicare provides limited coverage for short-term stays in a skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay, but seniors must meet a number of specific requirements. This benefit is available to beneficiaries who have been hospitalized for at least three days, excluding the date of discharge, so it’s most valuable for those who are recovering from an injury, illness or surgery.

Once seniors meet the hospitalization requirement, Medicare will pay for up to 100 days of skilled nursing per benefit period. The first 20 days are covered in full. Starting on day 21, beneficiaries must pay a daily coinsurance rate. After day 100, seniors are responsible for the entire cost.

What Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare covers a number of specific services, including:

  • Meals
  • A semiprivate room
  • Medications
  • Skilled nursing
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Audiologist care
  • Medical supplies
  • Medical social services
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Ambulance transportation

What Isn’t Covered by Medicare?

Medicare does not cover long-term custodial care that addresses seniors’ day-to-day needs. This includes help with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and using medical equipment.

For more information about Medicare and when it covers Nursing Home Care, read our Guide to Nursing Homes.

Medicare Resources and Support in Wisconsin

A form of federal health insurance available to those 65 and older, Medicare cannot cover the cost of nursing home care. However, it can cover the cost of medical supplies or doctor services to seniors living in a nursing home. Medicare may also help pay for some aspects of medical care during the Medicaid application process and waiting period or while seniors are still living at home before locating a suitable nursing home. Trained support staff are available for each given resource to give information and advice specific to families’ unique circumstances.  




(800) 242-1060

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a federally funded program that provides education and information about all aspects of Medicare, including eligibility, benefits and claims. Toll-free hotlines are available for general counseling. Families are given unbiased suggestions and advice for choosing the best health insurance options, with comparisons of Medicare, Medicaid and long-term care insurance available.

(800) 794-6559

A free service offered by the National Council on Aging, BenefitsCheckUp lets families learn whether their loved one qualifies for Medicare, Medicaid or other forms of health care assistance by completing a short series of questions. Results are tailored to meet specific needs, based on answers submitted, and applicants have access to a toll-free hotline for assistance answering questions or about results. 

(800) 633-4227

The official website for the federal health care program, helps families navigate the Medicare application process. Ranging from basic information such as a cost overview and how to get started to more in-depth resources comparing health plans and providing support while filing claims, offers round-the-clock information for families and elders. A live, 24/7 chat and toll-free number are available for questions about claims, logging in and other general assistance.

Other Financial Assistance Options for Nursing Home Care in Wisconsin

While Medicaid and Medicare are two of the most common programs used to pay for Nursing Home Care, there are other financial assistance options available, depending on your unique situation.

How to Apply

How It Works

Aid and Attendance

Learn more and apply online at

Veterans who receive a VA pension may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a monthly cash allowance that veterans receive in addition to their standard pension amount. The benefit is intended for veterans in need of long-term care services and may be used towards paying for skilled nursing care.

Reverse Mortgages

Learn more about your options and how to apply at

If you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for nursing care. Reverse mortgages are loans that one can take out against the value of their home, essentially converting some of the home's equity into cash. Reverse mortgage loans do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months of receiving the loan.

Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance

Learn more about Long-Term Care Insurance and how to apply for a policy at

Seniors who already have long-term care insurance may be able to use it to pay for skilled nursing care. Most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, but it depends on the specific policy terms. Note that older adults who are already in need of skilled nursing care will not typically be eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in Wisconsin

Finding appropriate nursing home care can be a challenging experience for many. To simplify the process and make the transition a smoother one, a number of free and subsidized resources exist in Wisconsin to help families.  




(800) 657-2038

For elders 65 and older, Senior Care Prescription Drug Assistance can help contribute to drug costs. Applicants must be Wisconsin residents and U.S. citizens or have a qualifying immigrant status. The program has three levels, each with its own income limitations. For example, to qualify for Level 1, individual applicants must earn no more than $21,744 per year. Seniors 65 and older can apply anytime, and recipients pay an annual $30 fee. 

(800) 815-0015

Staffed by specially-trained volunteers, Wisconsin’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program advocates for seniors and their caregivers with nursing homes and community-based residential facilities, resolving complaints ranging from dietary needs and financial issues to denial of community services and physical abuse. Ombudsmen meet with elders and families to discuss their concerns, then work directly with facilities to resolve issues.

(800) 362-3002

This Medicaid-waiver long-term care program for seniors who need skilled nursing provides care and support to help them live safely and with dignity at home. Family Care services may include skilled nursing, occupational / physical therapy and home-delivered meals.

(608) 222-2033

The Respite Care Association of Wisconsin offers resources for caregivers, including training courses in caregiving. Grant programs, including the Caregiver Respite Grant Program and Supplemental Respite Grant Program, support caregivers financially with days off and direct financial assistance. To qualify, applicants must have either been denied supports or other programs or they must not have received a Long-Term Care Waiver within 30 days. Applications include a Eligibility Criteria Form, which requires supporting documentation from the applicant's local ADRC.

COVID-19 Rules for Nursing Homes in Wisconsin

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including These rules apply to Independent Living Communities and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 2/15/2022, but since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic, contact your local senior living facility or Area Agency on Aging for more specific and up-to-date information.

Visitation Policies

Rules for Wisconsin Communities

Are loved ones allowed to visit to provide emotional support?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are relatives allowed to visit for end-of-life care?


Are residents required to quarantine after visiting with a loved one?


Are visitors required to wear PPE (including masks) in order to visit residents?


Are non-medical contractors (such as hairdressers and entertainers) allowed in senior living facilities?


Are visitors checked for elevated temperatures?


Are visitors required to answer questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?


Outings & Social Activities

Rules for Wisconsin Communities

Are residents allowed to leave (errands, visiting family, etc.) for non-medical reasons?

Not Available*

Are residents who leave required to quarantine when they return?

Not Available*

Are senior living communities required to cancel all group outings?


Are residents allowed to eat meals together in a common area?


Are residents allowed to gather in common areas for group activites?


*Note: This information was not available for this state, contact your local area agency on aging or senior living facility for more information.

COVID-19 Safety Measures for Staff and Residents

Rules for Wisconsin Communities

Are staff members regularly required to do a temperature check?


Are staff members regularly tested for COVID-19?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are staff members members regularly required to do a health and safety screening, including questions about travel, contact with positive cases, etc?


Are residents regularly screened for COVID-19 symptoms?


Are residents regularly checked for elevated temperatures?


Are residents regularly tested for COVID-19?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Nursing Home Laws and Regulations in Wisconsin

Licensing Requirements
Nursing homes are licensed as skilled nursing facilities or intermediate care facilities through the Department of Health Services. Licenses are valid for one month, at which time the nursing home must submit a report to the DHS to renew the license. 
Staffing Requirements
Wisconsin regulations indicate the total number of hours of nursing care each resident must receive. In a nursing home where skilled nursing care is needed, the facility must have enough nurses on staff to provide 2.5 total hours of care per resident. In intermediate nursing care facilities, the hours drop to 2.0. Of that care, 20% must come from licensed nurses.Nursing homes are required to employ a charge nurse who is a licensed practical nurse operating under a physician or professional nurse’s authority. The charge nurse can also be a professional nurse (RN).
Staff Training Requirements
Before starting their jobs, all new employees in nursing homes need to have orientation and safety training. All employees must receive residents' rights training before they reach 30 days of employment for the nursing home.All nursing homes must provide a nursing in-service from time to time to help their staff members gain important skills. Dietary in-service programs are also required on occasion.
Admission Restrictions
Nursing homes may not admit more residents than their maximum bed capacity. They also may not admit residents who need care greater than the care they are licensed to provide. If a resident needs services the facility cannot make available, that resident cannot be admitted.
Care Planning Requirements
Nursing home staff must create personal care plans presented in writing within the first four weeks of admission and must include assessments from all appropriate professionals and the orders from the patient’s physician. These plans have to be reviewed and updated as needed, but no set review timetable is required.
Dietary and Nutritional Services Requirements
SNFs in Wisconsin must provide food that is nourishing, palatable and well-balanced. Meals have to be planned with the help of a dietitian. The facility must also have a director of food services.
Menus should provide a variety of foods to accommodate different tastes and eating habits. Meals must be served in a dining room at a table for all residents who can eat this way. Any resident confined to bed is required to have a covered pitcher of drinking water available at all times.
Specialized Rehabilitative Services
All specialized rehab services must be either provided on-site or arranged for with an outside facility. All rehabilitative treatment is reported to the resident’s physician within two weeks of the start of therapy.
Medication and Pharmaceutical Services
Nursing homes must have arrangements with a pharmacy to get medication for residents. In addition to the required daily medications, SNFs can have a contingency supply of medication for 10 days or less. Medications are labeled with the patient's name, dosage, expiration date and directions for use.
Activities Requirements
Wisconsin nursing homes are required to have activities programs designed to meet the interests and needs of residents, but the law doesn't define specific activities requirements.
Infection Control Requirements
The state requires its nursing homes to report suspected communicable diseases to their local health officer. All nursing homes must have a plan to manage residents who have communicable diseases based on the current best standards of practice.
Medicaid Coverage
Wisconsin offers Medicaid to residents who meet specific income requirements, and it may cover nursing home care. To qualify for Medicaid coverage for a nursing home, Wisconsin seniors must be eligible based on the Adult Long-Term Care Functional Screen.

Nursing Homes Facilities in Wisconsin (82)