James M. Berklan

In the mid-November haze of 2016, top nursing home lobbyists, like much of the country, were still trying to fully grasp what had happened at the voting booth earlier that month. A person who had never held public office and who late in life converted to become a Republican had won the White House for that party.

What’s more, the Senate and House remained under GOP control. For healthcare providers who were feeling over regulated and/or battered by too many plaintiff lawsuits, this was great stuff

For nursing homes, in particular, it became a refreshing time to look forward to some regulatory stability and lessening of tensions. And a time to — finally — start looking at some goals that to date always had to be pushed aside while battling warring congressional factions.

Donald Trump could be a “good” president for the industry, we reported, based on numerous experts’ predictions and observations. The criticism came quickly. Politics! Leave it out of your reporting. Besides, this president is (allegedly) a bad guy, the critics howled.

Then it happened. After a short honeymoon, the president made nursing home lobbyists’ blood run cold. Do away with traditional Medicaid funding mechanisms, he said. I’ve never seen lobbyists, who are used to working both sides of the aisle, so panicked. 

This was industry-threatening stuff, leaders fretted, and we also reported on it. Billions of dollars of public funding was at stake. Long-term care jobs and livelihoods would be in the balance.

Yet again, critics howled. Politics, they cried. As if reporting on it at all was wrong. (A broad provider coalition helped back down the administration’s thrust in this direction.)

If it’s going to affect your job or workplace, including perceptions of them, however, we’re going to tell you about it. That is our mission, as it should be for any business-to-business publisher. Is politics going to come into play? For an industry that literally owes its existence to public policy and politicians, you bet. It’s impossible not to, and to not do so would be dereliction. That’s why journalists have learned to hold steady when critics complain about certain stories. Every reader brings his or her own set of (colored) glasses, and that’s expected.

As to the issue of current politics, it’s a mixed bag, as always. Here’s a link to an excellent comparison chart from the Commonwealth Fund on the presidential candidates’ stances on “Issues important to older Americans,” including long-term care. There’s plenty to like and dislike, no matter who you are. Go ahead and compare.

Hitting home

Speaking of choices, earlier this week, several commenters took exception to a president-themed column written by my colleague Liza Berger. You can see it here, but a quick summary is that President Trump’s speckled history of mocking individuals jumped from certain political adversaries or a disabled person to land squarely in the nursing home realm. He shared on social media a doctored photo that showed opponent Joe Biden depicted in a wheelchair — in some kind of long-term care facility. Talk about entering our readers’ professional sphere, and in a way that contrasted starkly from welcomed COVID-19 vaccination news just a day later. That’s an easy, obvious subject for coverage.

This is the same guy we reported on four years ago as a likely positive influence for the long-term care industry (see opening anecdote above), and critics from the other side of the aisle came out of the woodwork to express their displeasure. 

As the incumbent, Trump has commanded the majority of the publicity for most of the last four years. His administration’s positions are known, especially if you’re a regular McKnight’s reader. In those policies, you can find your good, bad and anything in between.

It must be noted that the same can be said for Joe Biden’s platform. Lest anyone think they’d be getting all roses without thorns from the “nice” candidate, I’d urge you to think again, especially if you’re in the long-term care field. Here’s a a link to the Biden-Harris policy statement on nursing homes and long-term care.

It isn’t difficult to quickly pull out a few things LTC providers have fought hard against. For example, the guy currently leading in most presidential election polls would reject liability limitations and reinstate the ban on forced arbitration agreements that came into being under the Obama administration but was put off by Trump.

Biden also says he would increase the frequency and scope of surveys and “restore levels of penalties needed to obtain compliance with quality standards.”

In other words, a Biden presidency would bring a new set of headaches to long-term care providers (if his potential administration would get its way).

So, no, don’t ever say politics doesn’t belong in stories that pertain to your job or business. To not consider their impact would be derelict, for everyone. 

Tell your views

The key is: Is there an opportunity to express various opinions and views? The answer with us is unequivocally “yes.” Hundreds of long-term care professionals and stakeholders publish guest blogs and offer commentary with us each year. Our guess submission guidelines are simple and can be found here.

In brief, all one needs to do is bring issues that could affect long-term care professionals’ jobs, keep it civil (no name calling) and you’re on your way. (These are neither new nor radical concepts, by the way.)

Do so and we’ll all be better for it. And remember: It’s OK to disagree.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.