James M. Berklan

It’s been suggested more than a few times that Tuesday’s much-anticipated Senate Finance Committee hearing was about lawmakers taking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to task.

A shiny new report detailed how weak oversight has been of potential and actual nursing home resident abuse cases. Bad, regulators. Bad, regulators. 

Wake up, people. While this might have been the second consecutive Charles Grassley-led Finance Committee hearing castigating CMS, the end-result is not going to be a spanking felt in any agency office in Baltimore.

Ultimately, it’s going to sting in skilled nursing facilities and boardrooms around the country. If you were breathing a sigh of relief or snickering at the criticism leveled at CMS — and make no mistake, it was considerable — you probably also get easily distracted by butterflies outside the office window.

Skilled nursing operators are surely going to be hurting when this plays out. If a drill sergeant is bawled out for his troops’ alleged poor behavior, guess who’s going to be getting muddy and dodging extra live ammo on the obstacle course? That’s right: The frontline troops.

Speaking with ease and nary a glance at notes, Mark Parkinson acquitted himself quite well on behalf of providers at Tuesday’s hearing. The president and CEO of the American Health Care Association rightly vowed no tolerance for any kind of abuse and quickly shifted focus to what providers require in order to do a better job: an employee tracking database that goes across state lines, better Medicaid funding and, above all, help with workforce shortages. A dearth of job candidates means you take what you can get, or sometimes you have to do without and go short-staffed. 

In this world of livestreamed politics, some of the lawmakers actually went along with Parkinson’s partial solutions, seconding a need for better Medicaid support and help on the workforce front.

What will ever come of that patty-cake playing is anyone’s guess, but don’t get your hopes up. Congress moves slowly and if you haven’t noticed lately, without much unity most of the time.

In the meantime, get your hardhat properly fitted. There is going to be fallout from Tuesday’s hearing. It might have appeared tidy, but a mess is in the making. 

The last few times Grassley started grumbling about nursing homes, CMS either responded or acted pre-emptively with stiffer measures. Not coincidentally, Administrator Seema Verma stood up straighter and vowed to investigate and overhaul procedures.

Mark my words: Tuesday’s hearing isn’t some other guy’s problem.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.