Face it: It’s easy to complain. About the boss, about the weather, about “the system.” And if you toil in long-term care, it’s really easy to fire up a narrowed down complaint list targeting two things: regulators and lawmakers.

There’s no question both can be hard on skilled nursing operators. Sometimes the vigilance can be warranted, sometimes not so much. Those who work to take care of the nation’s sickest and most frail residents know they exist in essentially a no-win position.

That’s why any small wins should be duly recognized and celebrated. Wednesday was a day for celebration, albeit modest, to be sure.

Providers received good news on not one but two bills making their way through the US House. That’s still a far cry from saying they were approved by the full House, let alone the Senate as well, but it beats an early defeat on either of these measures.

First, let’s focus on a bill that would extend greater access to telehealth. Opportunities were widened during the COVID-19 crisis and found to be pretty darn helpful and effective. Added provisions that were extended through the end of 2024 would gain two more years of life under the bill.

All the better to take a closer look at longer-term implications to care outcomes and costs. Who can logically be against this?

Perhaps even more importantly, the House Ways and Means Committee also advanced an updated bill that would allow certified nurse-aide training to resume under certain conditions at facilities that had exceeded a defined fine threshold. Currently, regulators may tell providers they need to improve their CNA ranks but then add they just can’t do it on their own campuses. Talk about cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Perhaps some sanity is seeping into Washington, whereby the short-handed are given a chance to mend their ways and get back on their feet.

We all have to be careful, though. The latter proposal advanced only along a party-line vote. Besides, If this latter piece of legislation goes too far, it could give lawmakers other ideas that might not make the administration happy. 

After all, if a bill recognizes that taking away ways to enhance facility staff does not make sense, maybe that line of thinking might seem logical in other contexts as well. 

For example, could some cracks be exploited in the recently finalized federal staffing rule? It says that even though 94% of facilities currently don’t have enough (i.e. can’t find enough) workers, providers still must hire even more employees or risk punishment.

Next up: It’s the Senate Finance Committee’s turn to get moving on its version of the bill. If a party-line vote prevails again, however, it could mean skeptical Democrats would torpedo it … and give providers another primem entry in their complaint list.

James M. Berklan is McKnight’s Long-Term Care News’ Executive Editor and a Best Commentary award winner in the 2024 Neal Awards, which are given annually to recognize the nation’s best specialized business journalism.

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.