Medicaid, Medicare and the price of victory

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News

Like Many Americans, I spent a fair amount of time watching the Olympic Games. Actually, I occupied most of that time trying to figure out whether the United States or China was ahead in the medal count.

I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of pride and relief when the United States finished with more gold medals (46) and total medals (104) than any other nation at the XXX Olympiad.

Let's be honest, we Americans love our winners. The Green Bay Packers did not become a beloved franchise simply because they showed that a small-market team could compete in the National Football League. They are a fan favorite because they have captured 13 championships. Nor is Michael Phelps an icon just because he looks good in a Speedo. (Although my 16 year-old daughter and most of her friends might beg to differ.)  I suspect his 22 Olympic medals in swimming — including 18 of the gold variety — might also be contributing to his popularity.

General Douglas MacArthur famously said there is no substitute for victory. And he is 100% right. Winning is fun. Losing is not. So it shouldn't be too surprising that we tend to gravitate toward those who are dancing when the contest ends.

But it does seem that our national obsession with winning may have warped our perspective a bit. Take the upcoming presidential election. It appears that the two sides will do just about anything, so long as it helps ensure a victory.

Last week, it was Vice President Joe Biden's turn to lower the bar. He told a largely black audience that Mitt Romney's approach to regulating Wall Street will “put y'all back in chains.”

“Y'all.” Is that how law-degreed white people from Delaware talk these days?

To be fair, both sides are giving facts and fiction a wide berth as the Goofy Season heats up.

And while it is getting increasingly difficult to separate the indefensible rhetoric from the defensible variety, much remains at stake for long-term care operators. Medicaid and Medicare are the two main patrons of nursing homes today. And we've certainly heard plenty of charges lately about how the other guy would like to ruin both.

Here's my suggestion: When it comes to blueprints for these programs, focus on what the candidate actually says, and then draw your own conclusions.

It also may help to remember that his talking points might not mean much in the long run. After all, I'm pretty sure that Congress — not the White House — still decides how much money will actually be spent on federal programs.

Finally, try to take the long view. Regardless of the victors on Nov. 6, it may be years before long-term care operators know whether this election was a win, loss or draw.

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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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