John O'Connor

If you are like most long-term care professionals, you are likely watching the ongoing fiscal cliff standoff with a mixture of fear and disgust.

The fear you may be experiencing is easy to understand. Unless Democrats and Republicans can craft a spending/tax deal that averts automatic funding cuts in the next few weeks, Medicare payment reductions will kick in. If the warnings of some economists are not exaggerated, the resulting cascade could also plunge the nation into another Recession.

Even if a deal is struck, it might not be cork-popping time. For as we’ve seen in the past, Congress has mastered the art of promising new benefits with one hand while quietly euthanizing them with the other. It’s probably safe to say that if a full-blown fiscal cliff encounter is avoided, compromises will be part of the deal. So while the 2% Medicare cut can be averted, that does little to address other concerns such as therapy payment cap limits, Medicaid provider taxes and other “perks” that could be targeted.

That feeling of disgust welling up in your gut is also easy to comprehend. Leaders on both sides have known for months that the fiscal cliff is coming. Or at least they should have known, seeing as they built it. And what are these mostly law school educated, highly articulate, results oriented leaders doing as we near the precipice? Taking polls and digging in, mostly.

Look, the problem here is not that hard to diagnose. We as a nation are spending more than we take in. There are basically three options at our disposal. Spend less, tax more, or take a hybrid approach that combines both.

No real mystery here. So why do both sides insist on simply getting more of what caused the problem?

It’s a bit of a riddle — until you read Dr. Seuss. Or more specifically, his short story called “The Zax.”

In that piece, there are two kinds of Zax; those who travel north and those who travel south. When two Zax encounter each other, the result is a standoff. They end up standing in one place for so long that a highway overpass is built around them. The story ends with them “unbudged in their tracks.”

Maybe long-term care leaders need to spend less time trying to get stubborn lawmakers to lead. What the field should perhaps be more focused on is how we build that darn overpass.