John O'Connor

Providers are finding their personal and professional relationships with the government tested these days.

Many of you just wrote whopping checks to Uncle Sam and state revenue departments for income tax “underpayments.” That’s on top of property taxes that may be about to come due. And in many urban areas, those picking up cleaning or groceries on the way home from work get to pay an additional 10% or so sales tax.

As for your day job, there are stepped-up survey requirements, closer payment reviews and constant promises from regulators of more granular oversight. There’s no doubt, things can get frustrating, or worse.

But before we all grab our torches and pitchforks, let’s take a deep breath.

This Sunday will mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma. This heartless terrorist attack claimed the lives of 168 humans, including 19 children. Many of us can never forget the image of a fireman carrying a lifeless child from the carnage. Or bloodied people stumbling away from a building that was instantly transformed into rubble.

But here’s the thing: The perpetrator was not some Death-to-America foreigner with dreams of an afterlife with virginal girlfriends. No, the bomber turned out to be a very regular-looking American named Timothy McVeigh. Why did he do it? Apparently, as a way to show how much he hated American government. Talk about an ingrate.

Look, I’m no fan of all the screwball things that government in its various forms can do. As we’ve all seen, government agencies tend to be both inefficient and remarkably tone deaf. Our elected officials and bureaucrats sometimes act in ways that seem to hold capitalism and taxpayers in utter contempt.

But as Mama used to say, there’s a reason why people keep sneaking in at night. One of our great strengths is our great wealth. It’s a wealth that creates opportunity for those with the resolve and ambition to leave a more miserable existence behind. But an even greater strength is that it is a government of “We the People.”

We have the ability to try to change the things we do not care for. It’s perfectly legal to advocate for change. Or to rally for smaller, better and more efficient government. And it’s OK to become ticked-off when the way things are seems out of whack with the way things ought to be.

But you can’t have it both ways. If you are going to enjoy the services and opportunities this country offers, and volunteer to participate in programs that pay your bills (such as Medicare and Medicaid), realize that there is a price of admission that needs to be paid.

As for the view that our government is the enemy? If that’s how you feel, maybe it’s time to reconsider your position — and where it ultimately leads.

A personal indulgence 

It was a bittersweet time for yours truly in San Antonio this week.

The good parts first: I was honored to receive the American College of Health Care Administrators’ (ACHCA) journalism award. We scriveners generally prefer to be observers, but I must admit the honor was humbling.

It was also great to run into some wonderful old friends again, especially Beecher Hunter and Dan Suer. Despite his youthful appearance, Dan has been working in the field for more than three decades. He’s a tireless advocate for the profession and the College. Simply put, Beecher (at left in photo) is a gentleman’s gentleman. I’ve never met a more pleasant, hospitable human being. Catching up with both was a true joy.

It was also nice to again run into CC Andrews, who did a commendable job as emcee of the awards ceremony — which she also was instrumental in putting together.

It’s also good to see the College rebounding. Membership is climbing, and there is more positive buzz associated with the group than I’ve seen in a long time. And as quality and professionalism become more essential to long-term care, you have to believe the upward trend will continue.

Now for the sad: After serving as president and CEO for nearly nine years, Marianna Gracheck will be retiring from ACHCA in July. She has been a driving force within the organization, and one of the key reasons it is so well poised for the road ahead.

Never one to take credit when it can be shared, Marianna has always avoided the spotlight. Michael Hotz, who chairs the organization’s board of directors, was almost sheepish in announcing he’d bestow her with the Chair’s award. But the resulting standing ovation she received was more than a polite response: It was a sincere and heartfelt thank you from some of the best providers in the field. To say that she’ll be missed would be an extreme understatement.

If you are not currently a member and hope to make yourself a better administrator, you owe it to yourself to check out what the College has to offer. These guys (and gals) really do wear the white hats.

John O’Connor has covered long-term care for more than 25 years and is McKnight’s Editorial Director.