John O’Connor

It doesn’t seem too long ago we were hoping for a less stressful 2021. At least the first five days of the year were fairly normal.

That is, normal in the sense that they didn’t involve an angry mob storming the Capitol. The shocking sights and sounds of last Wednesday are something many of us will never forget. As Hump Days go, that one will surely live in infamy.

Yet almost lost in the chaos and carnage was a development that may affect long-term care more directly.

I’m referring of course to the fact that Democratic candidates won both Senate runoff elections in Georgia last week — giving them control of Congress and the White House for the first time since 2011. As a practical matter, one party will now be able to set and control the legislative agenda.

Is that good or bad for you? As is so often the case with profound questions, the answer depends on how you size things up.

On the positive side of the ledger, here’s a preview:

  • COVID-19 vaccines for residents and staff will likely get distributed faster.
  • Immigration rules will probably be loosened (which actually may help improve workforce supply).
  • The $600 stimulus payments many of your employees receive will soon get bumped to $2,000.
  • Proposals for expanded healthcare coverage and payments will be introduced, and perhaps passed.

But it’s not going to be all fun and games. Among the issues that promise to deliver semi-sleepless nights:

More rules and regulations affecting business and care delivery are all but certain. It’s also likely that the Department of Labor, the Occupational Health Care Administration and other oversight agencies will abandon the laissez faire attitude they adopted during the Trump administration.

And if you think you’ve been hearing a lot of calls for better skilled care in recent years, just wait.

Nobody likes to admit it, but long-term care is basically a welfare recipient. There’s no shame in that. The same is true for the hospital sector, the military complex, universities, many Fortune 500 companies, farmers and any other enterprise that relies on federal and/or state aid.

But as the saying goes, he who pays the fiddler calls the tune. In the case of most payments directed toward long-term care operators (via Medicare and Medicaid), that means Congress. And most operators know from experience that Democrats and Republicans tend to have very different, ahem, musical tastes.

So strap in. And with a little luck, maybe things will start to get more normal in 2022.

 John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s