Kimberly Marselas

Usually, Memorial Day weekend ushers in a feeling of contentment, a sense of lightness punctuated by some fast-paced weekend fun and maybe a great vacation to look forward to.

But I’m finding it hard to let go of the stress this year, what with a war in Europe looking to boil into something more, another horrific mass shooting in America and economic uncertainty looming over us all.

It’s hard to imagine many sectors where that uncertainty weighs more heavily than skilled nursing. Next week brings a key deadline for comments on a payment rule that could by all indications finish off some vulnerable providers when finalized later this year.

Even if it lands in a more-gentle form than anticipated, a pay cut of any kind will still threaten providers grappling with 8.5% inflation, wages that have in some cases doubled and — lest you forget — a pandemic that will not quit.

But that’s just the start.

Though Congress takes a break in August, federal regulators never sleep. At least it doesn’t feel like it lately. The push is on toward creation of a new staffing minimum, and if actions earlier this year are any indication, more reform measures could drop any day.

Still on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ to-do list: additional efforts to understand ownership data and trends, increased inspection scrutiny and the authorization of higher penalties for infractions found during on-site surveys and for data-related offenses.

Some of those efforts will likely require some Congressional input or funding. But waiting to see how all of that shakes out months from now doesn’t necessarily put one in the mood to do a cannonball into the neighborhood pool or roast marshmallows over a campfire.

And many of you in the trenches can forget a longer getaway, so strapped are you for staff to cover needed shifts. But even amidst this stress and struggle, we must find ways to renew our spirit. To work toward something, even when it feels like nothing is working.

Next week, hundreds of American Health Care Association members will gather in Washington, D.C., for their annual briefing aimed at influencing hearts and minds in Congress. It’s the first fly-in for AHCA since COVID hit, and in a decade that has so far been tumultuous to say the least, this may be skilled nursing’s most important lobbying event of the 2020s.

So here’s hoping providers from across the U.S. who decide to brave D.C. in always-muggy June can turn up the heat on legislators. They must convince them to better support nursing homes as they struggle to be there for the patients — and voters — who need access to skilled care today and also in the future.

Without some success, this summer “break” might just be the one that breaks skilled nursing for good.

Kimberly Marselas is senior editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

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