Nursing homes throwing money around

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor

Even in generosity, it seems, nursing homes can't catch a break. The headlines imply as much. 

There they were in bold, tall type, touting the fact that a “nursing home group” had donated $175,000 toward Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-UT) re-election effort.

Most any consumer is probably thinking, “What are they up to?!”

If you're a provider, you're likely realizing, “Hey, that type of dough could put a few more nurses' feet on the floor to cover gaps!”

The donations came in the form of $75,000 and $100,000 lumps to the Utah Republican Party this year and last, respectively, courtesy of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care. That's the pen name for the group otherwise known as “Heavy hitters with big LTC corporations.”

Although the money was given with no strings attached, according to Republican party officials, there is little illusion as to its real purpose. The provider group is hoping to keep Hatch in office, and stave off a Tea Party-endorsed candidate. Hatch is in line to become chairman of the powerful Finance Committee if Republicans regain control of the Senate in November elections.

To connect the dots a little further, this is the committee that oversees the administration of Medicare and Medicaid funding. That's billions of dollars of mother's milk to skilled nursing providers.

It's not known whether Hatch will win, of course, but local observers were pretty much in agreement that the donations recently helped boost Republican turnout at a crucial time. (Let it be known, incidentally, that nursing home lobbyists were hardly the only out-of-state special interest group, or even healthcare group, that hedged their bets with large donations going Hatch's way.)

So it's just more purchased politics, you might “tsk tsk.” Or the Alliance's big gifts to Hatch are just attempts to buy influence, you mutter under your breath. It's just another bunch of corner-office powerbrokers throwing their weight around, you conclude.

The only answer I have to any of those charges is, hey, everyone's entitled to his or her opinion. But I'll add a flat-out objective observation.

If you're a long-term care provider, you have no occasion to get too self-righteous on issues like these. Virtually all nursing homes benefit from the big-bucks games that the Alliance usually plays.

When it wins, you win, too.

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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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