AHCA's Parkinson 'cautiously optimistic,' despite sequester and other looming fiscal challenges

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A newly enacted sequester may be trimming Medicare payments to skilled nursing operators, but the sector remains strong and poised for future growth. That assessment was delivered Wednesday by the head of the nation's largest nursing home association at a conference in San Diego hosted by the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry.

Skilled care facilities continue to perform well in four critical areas, said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the 11,000-member American Health Care Association. These are: location, case mix, execution and finance. Moreover, strong lobbying and relatively low costs will aid skilled care operators as accountable care organizations take hold, Parkinson added.

But despite being “cautiously optimistic,” Parkinson noted that two short-term challenges are being carefully watched by his organization, which includes 9,600 skilled care operators. One is the possibility Medicare funds that would otherwise go to nursing homes will be diverted to physicians, as part of the so-called doc payment fix. Another is that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will recommend that funding be diverted away from therapy care in a planning report due out in April.

Parkinson added that skilled care operators need to “do a better job” of touting their advantages to financiers. The NIC conference concludes today.