When nursing homes throw money around

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
Even in generosity, it seems, nursing home leaders can't catch a break. The headlines, from the Washington Post to the Huffington Post, implied 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.

The donations came in the form of $75,000 and $100,000 lumps 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.” Many major for-profit providers are involved.

No doubt some consumers thought “What are they up to?” Although the money was given with no strings attached, according to Republican Party officials, there was little illusion as to its real purpose. Providers are 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.

That is the committee that oversees the administration of Medicare and Medicaid funding. That's the lion's share of what pays providers' costs — from supplies to electric bills to your salary. When lawmakers are deciding your future, who wouldn't want to be on their good side?

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. (Nursing home lobbyists were hardly the only out-of-state special interest group, or even healthcare group, that hedged its bets with large donations going Hatch's way.)

Some might “tsk, tsk” that this is just more purchased politics. Or mutter that the Alliance's big gifts to Hatch are just attempts to buy influence. Others might conclude it's just another bunch of corner-office powerbrokers throwing their weight around.

Hey, everyone's entitled to his or her opinion. But 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.