John O’Connor

So, are things getting better or worse for long-term care?

Seems like a simple yes-or-no question, does it not? Yet the answer is a bit less obvious.

It’s not terribly difficult to find evidence that supports either view. The optimists like to point out that even if things are worsening, the pace is slowing. Besides, we are starting to see some real signs of progress. And just you wait for that Silver Tsunami, which will be arriving any time now.

Then there’s President Biden’s plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and bolster the economy. That $2.3 trillion blueprint is loaded with sweeteners, and will all but ensure that loadza money comes this sector’s way, in one form or another.

And now that the Senate parliamentarian has essentially made it filibuster-proof, the measure could be on Biden’s desk for signing in the coming months, maybe even weeks.

As for the pessimists? All they need mention is one word: pandemic. The COVID-19 juggernaut has pretty much decimated the long-term care sector. Occupancy is down, costs are up, and good luck finding anyone with a pulse who wants to be a frontline worker these days. And it’s not like things were going swimmingly well before 2020.

Moreover, it’s a rare week we are not hearing about one of the big boys (or girls) reconsidering its commitment to long-term care.

Even the industry’s own messengers seem inconsistent. When encouraging investors, they warn against behaving like little chickens. But when asking Congress for more funding, they sound like Chicken Little.

Perhaps it’s best to avoid viewing the market as a homogenous entity? After all, this field is made up of 15,000 or so skilled care facilities. Each business is run differently.

Some are extremely efficient, well managed and are tapping funding streams that meet or exceed operational costs. Some are anything but. Most of the rest fall in the space in between.

For better or worse, that is the real state of this union.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.