James M. Berklan

It’s a safe bet that by the time you get a chance to read this, the winner of the 2020 presidential election will not be known. An important outcome to keep an eye on, no doubt.

But maybe not the most important result for long-term care providers.

Sure, whoever gets the White House for the next four years will hold a big part of providers’ fate in his hands. There’s control over little things like the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And a whole lot more.

But not over everything. It looks like nobody’s going to definitively control Congress with the Senate remaining in Republican power and the House in Democratic leadership’s hands. If you haven’t noticed, the recently divided Congress hasn’t moved an awful lot of legislation, as is usually the cases with a divided body.

That, in no small way, gives providers reason to cheer. Possibly only among themselves or quietly behind closed doors, but happy they will be. Why? Because it’s hard for a non-unified government to make as many drastic moves against the industry.

That is admittedly a skeptical way to look at things, but one only has to remember that nursing home operators are used to being somebody else’s punching bag. If the punches lack the power of two clenched fists, all the better.

If the Senate had shifted to Democratic control, as many forecasters had predicted, that could have meant a rise in greater legislative burdens. And if Joe Biden were to win the White House on top of that? It would be Katie bar the door.

For the last few election cycles, long-term care lobbyists have been happy with a divided Congress, and this time is no different.

“We are going to have mutual accountability on issues alarming to us” if Thursday’s expected voting outcomes hold, explained Clifton Porter II, senior vice president, government relations for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.

Nursing homes’ next “Man of the Hour,” in fact, could be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Fresh off his own re-election and retaining a GOP majority in the chamber, it is McConnell who will remain his party’s dominant bargainer in any further coronavirus relief talks. He is insisting the legislation contains liability shields for providers and certain other businesses ravaged by the raging virus that kills indiscriminately and travels behind invisible shields of its own.

It would be an “existential threat” to not have legal protections for an industry that carries the burden of having 40% of the dead from the worst public health emergency in at least a century, Porter said.

It is McConnell’s holding firm for liability reforms, a “courageous position,” as Porter put it, that providers may wind up cheering the most in the wake of Tuesday’s vote.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.