Government shutdown ends, but Howard Dean tells long-term care providers to expect continued gridlock

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A deal originating in the Senate has restored federal government funding and raised the nation's debt ceiling, ending a 16-day government shutdown that threatened senior services programs and nursing facilities. However, the underlying problems that led to the crisis are not likely to be resolved soon, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean recently told McKnight's.

“The long-term problem is only going to be resolved when the new generation takes over,” Dean said. The 2004 presidential contender and former Democratic National Committee chairman spoke on camera with McKnight's in Chicago, at the annual meeting of the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry.

Members of the far-right conservative faction known as the Tea Party led a movement in the House of Representatives to withhold funding for the government unless their ACA-related demands were met, resulting in the partial government shutdown. However, the attempt to defund the ACA failed to change the healthcare law in any substantial way. The final deal included a provision related to income verification for those seeking insurance through the new online marketplaces. 

The Tea Party is part of a shrinking demographic block, Dean said. However, as long as Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) wants to keep Tea Party members under the umbrella of the Republican Party, a grand bargain that tackles entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid is not likely, in Dean's view.

Under the bill passed by the Senate and House late on Wednesday, the government will be funded through Jan. 15 and the debt limit will be raised until Feb. 7. In the meantime, Congressional lawmakers will begin the type of negotiations that Dean is skeptical can succeed. Even if the White House gives in on some entitlement reforms — which Dean said he could envision — the Tea Party probably will reject anything that does not conform to their agenda, which includes gutting the ACA.

Some people are concerned that another crisis could occur when government funding and the debt ceiling again must be considered in early 2014, but others argue that the damage caused by the recent standoff will discourage similar brinkmanship. While many House Republicans held the line against the deal brokered in the Senate, the measure passed with the support of more moderate members of the GOP. The votes were 81-18 in the Senate and 285-144 in the House. President Obama signed the bill after midnight.

Speaking with McKnight's Editorial Director John O'Connor, Dean also addressed the pressure on long-term care operators to diversify their services in light of ACA reforms. Click play above to see more.