Congress returns to full action; focus turns back to therapy cap process, docs and State of the Union

The U.S. Senate ends its recess Monday, six days after the House reconvened. That sets the stage for more intense lobbying over healthcare spending and other measures, including the Medicare Part B therapy caps exceptions process and how to fund Medicare doctors. Both were part of a two-month reprieve Congress approved shortly before Christmas. Long-term care providers and numerous other special interest groups will continue their blitz of lawmakers and their staff members in attempts to curry favor for what should be a much longer legislative solution this time. Also on tap: Watching intently Tuesday to see whether long-term care is mentioned in President Obama's State of the Union address.

Providers to turn up the heat on lawmakers visiting home districts: funding the biggest concern

If it's the middle of August, that means federal lawmakers are on recess, touring their home districts. It also means providers are pursuing facility tours and other kinds of direct contact with the lawmakers. There is little chance members of Congress won't hear providers' concerns before heading back to Washington. Operators are rallying against an 11.1% average Medicare funding cut set to go into effect Oct. 1. They're also trying to sway opinion with members of the newly appointed "super panel" that will make deficit reduction recommendations by Thanksgiving.