Long-term care operators feeling alone again, naturally

John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Say what you will about Republican lawmakers and their notions of healthcare reform: at least they're consistent.

Like their Democratic colleagues, they simply don't seem to realize that long-term care is a part of the package deal. As Exhibit A, I offer the new-and-improved Ryancare proposal, which was released last week.

To be sure, Medicare would be affected by this new approach. Out-of-pocket costs for some seniors would rise, overall costs would be capped, and commercial insurers would receive sweeteners to get more involved in the program.

But let's not forget the monumental effort Republican lawmakers put into repealing Obamacare over the past six years. Given that history, you'd think their “Better Way” plan would have offered more in a way that's better. Yet most of the proposal consists of dusted off GOP notions that have garnered little support outside the party.

What's even worse, my friends, is that the latest option also seems to have been designed to make long-term care operators feel like personas less than grata.

Considering how toxic things are in Washington, perhaps it should be expected that scoring political points would be the top priority. What is less understandable, however, is how tone deaf so many lawmakers are to the fact that skilled care is an important part of the healthcare continuum.

Yet the new plan basically offers nothing new in the way of relief or incentives for skilled care operators.

Given the demographics ahead, the health consumption habits of our nation, and the political support that more than 15,000 skilled operators account for, the omission is hard to fathom. Does someone need to remind House Speaker Ryan — who unveiled the plan — that nursing homes actually exist? I have to believe he's aware that that there are more than 400 in his state of Wisconsin alone.

Look, I get it. Hospitals and docs always eat first. But isn't it high time that skilled care operators stopped being treated like poor kids at the prom?

Please don't write in that I am an apologist for Obamacare. That plan has plenty of shortcomings as well. They include still-unknown surprises, the possible ruination of the health insurance market and the negative toll it could take on the economy. Plus it gives skilled care short shrift.

But here's the thing: If you're trying to improve something that's deeply flawed, maybe your first priority should be to make things better. This plan does not. And it has the added insult of taking yet another kick at long-term care.

Operators in this field have a right to expect better, from both camps.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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