The importance of staying on message is pretty clear to most people in business and, of course, politics. There’s nothing like a unified front to send a clear message. In fact, most believe it’s imperative.

Even if it involves flip-flopping on original arguments. Just ask any recent edition of Congress. Represent the people who voted you in? The best interests of the country you represent? The case you were strenuously arguing for? Pah! Just unite with a crowd and you should, if nothing else, at least have cover.

To be fair, it’s a tactic that lobbying and special interest groups have used and rely on as a means of survival.

That includes long-term care, of course. The sector has allies in some issues, such as hospitals when those acute-care healthcare partners need to move stale patients out of their beds, for example. Or consumers, when states need to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for the good of, well, the most needy people around and those who serve them.

Perhaps the most overarching story line providers unite around is how hard it is to do business. And who could blame them, really? You have a central authority that issues the regulations, adjudicates disputes, levies penalties and, oh yes, in the majority of cases, decides how much you get paid for your services.

Add on to that, almost universal staffing challenges, boundless healthcare regulations, and a stigma that’s all but unavoidable when you’re taking care of frail folks near the end of their lives. There’s no way to escape the conclusion: It IS a tough business and woe to the people having to punch in to put up with the disrespect and challenges every day.

While stated perhaps to the overly dramatic side of the ledger — did I forget to mention the constant funding and payment challenges? — it is, nonetheless, a good facsimile of a basic script that most providers can unify around.

Except … except for those folks who apparently have missed the memo with the main talking points.

Yes, I’m talking about those audacious people running the Ensign juggernaut. That would be the nation’s biggest nursing home chain, which has been growing by leaps and bounds — before, during and after the pandemic.

Every quarterly report for several years, I’ve kind of held my breath, waiting for the officers to finally trudge to their microphones to mumble about the wind that’s been taken out of their sales, er, sails. But nope.

“RQ” seems like it should be part of their stock ticker — for “record quarter.” It would certainly help cut down on the keyboard strokes needed to write up the earnings report stories about them.

It was last week’s earnings call, in fact, that really compelled this humble dose of homage. Occupancy up. Holdings up. Workforce up. Revenue guidance way up.

Backing up a bit, we all know earnings calls highlight the good and attempt to minimize the, um, not-so-good. And there are plenty of ways for any company to play shell games. While I’m not accusing Ensign of misrepresenting facts or conditions by any means, we can all probably safely agree that all that glitters is not gold at Ensign – or any other company. All have warts.

But you have to admire their ambition if nothing else.

Which brings us back to last week’s earnings call. The one where Chief Investment Officer Chad A. Keetch plainly stated the company is now in 14 states and has “significant bandwidth to grow in the other 36 states.” Seriously? In this nursing home operating environment?

Keetch left little to the imagination when he added that other operators’ troubles, and there are many, he acknowledged, are going to contribute to Ensign’s future growth in a big way.

Bully for Ensign and its voracious appetite and many successes. But, quick, somebody send them some reading glasses. They need to take another look at the script.

James M. Berklan is McKnight’s Executive Editor.

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