Elephants and donkeys

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It’s a pretty exciting day, as far as national politics go. The pivotal primaries in Ohio and Texas could determine the Democratic nominee for president of the United States – or more likely, draw out the vetting process for more rumor-filled, scandal-scouring, attack-ridden weeks.

I have to admit: I am enjoying it. The reason is Barack Obama, who has made people shake off their cynicism with his optimism, clearheadedness and, dare I say, authenticity. (As if you couldn’t guess, I’m a supporter. An ardent one.)

It is fun to have absolutely no idea what is to come, who will win and how she or he may affect the United States. As the field has narrowed, you also may have begun to consider how a new president will affect you in the long-term care field.

There is no question long-term care will be somewhere on the president’s agenda. Whoever takes the West Wing will inherit the problems of an aging boomer population coupled with an unsustainable Medicaid program, which, of course, pays for the majority of long-term care.

Something has to change. Nursing homes are constantly fighting for more funding while margins continue to remain tight. Just this week, the American Health Care Association and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care are protesting a recommendation to freeze Medicare nursing home payment rates for fiscal year 2009.

At first blush, it seems Hillary Clinton may be long-term care’s gal. So far, she has been the only candidate to put out an agenda that addresses long-term care. Back in December, as you may recall, she proposed a $5 billion plan that she said would help make long-term care insurance more affordable and improve nursing home quality.

But, one has to wonder, will it matter what the president’s party affiliation is? A couple of industry experts don’t think so.

Each individual likely will have different interests to promote regarding long-term care, says Susan Feeney, spokeswoman for the American Health Care Association.

“We just want to make sure that whoever becomes president has an agenda for long-term care,” she said. She added that the next leader will need to look at major payment system reform.

Meanwhile, Barbara Gay, the veteran director of advocacy information for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, also did not express a bias. She noted that there was not a huge policy change when Congress changed hands from Republican to Democrat. Looking back, she said she couldn’t recall a time when long-term care has ever experienced a period of relative prosperity.

“I think the ‘golden age’ is still ahead of us,” she said with a hint of sarcasm.

In the spirit of the optimism that has gripped a significant swath of our country over the last several weeks, I say let’s hope so.

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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.