Are some skilled-care owners doing good and doing too well?

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Fortune magazine just released its latest list of billionaires. And this year's compilation contains at least one representative from the long-term care sector. Frankly, I'm not sure whether this development qualifies as helpful or hurtful.

Coming in at No. 1,650 is Forrest Preston, the founder, owner and CEO of Life Care Centers of America. Mr. Preston is worth $1.4 billion, according to the magazine.

People who strike it rich in many fields tend to be celebrated. They are regularly cited for overcoming long odds, possessing rare business moxie and setting enviable standards. But skilled care owners are not exactly known for publicly bragging about their accumulated wealth. Yet clearly, this sector has coined quite a few mega-millionaires.

In fact, if you happened to be in Dallas last week for the NIC spring event, it would have been hard not to notice how well-dressed attendees from the skilled-care sector tended to be. Then again, custom-made suits can be rather flattering.

What we seem to have here is the opposite of an open secret.  It's readily apparent that a lot of people have piled up tidy sums, thanks to owning long-term care companies. Yet nobody seems to want to say much about it.

I suppose it's possible this field has a monopoly on business people who happen to be both humble and rich. Just as it's possible most brood horses like to solve algebra problems when nobody's looking.

What's possible and more likely is that most owners are smart enough to avoid bad optics. This is, after all, a sector that must convince Congress every year that it is barely scraping by.

But if more names from this field keep popping up on lists of billionaires, some lawmakers might begin to wonder how desperate the funding situation really is.

So maybe the less said about the Fortune list, the better.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.