Let's hope they don't give war a chance

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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

In recent weeks, Congress has come under intense pressure to avoid sequestration. Sequestration is an odd term most people outside of Washington have never heard of. Basically, it's a fancy way to describe a $1 trillion cut to federal spending that's set to take effect in January.

In May, Kindred Healthcare CEO Paul Diaz told the Senate Finance Committee that sequestration could “cause a level of instability that I fear will prevent the kind of innovation needed to transform our healthcare system.” Diaz makes a good point.

And let's face it: Few providers relish the prospect of lower Medicare payments.

But many long-term care insiders are starting to wonder if sequestration might not be so bad after all. That's because a provision in the sequestration law caps Medicare funding cuts at 2%. All things considered, a 2% reduction is starting to look better with each passing day.

Of course, Congress could still revisit the automatic spending cuts set to kick in on January 2. But for that to happen, they would need to find enough votes to do so. Given the current high level of partisan vitriol in Washington, getting Congress to simply agree on what day it is could prove problematic. The odds of resolving a sequestration challenge? Magic 8 Ball says, “Don't think so.”

It's highly unlikely Congress ever intended for a sequestration kick-in to be a reality. Many members who originally voted to approve this option likely felt that the pressure from the looming cuts would shame their colleagues into action. Of course, betting that shameless people will suddenly come to their senses is sort of like betting that your goldfish will take up the harmonica.

Now, there is one way the current Congress could rid itself of the sequestration headache: Declare war. But we know our trusted leaders would never do something that cynical. Right?


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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