The results of Tuesday’s mid-term elections may be a mixed bag for America’s two biggest political parties, but they are likely a net positive for the skilled nursing field.
Clifton Porter II, senior vice president of government relations for the American Health Care Association, delivered that main message in an interview with McKnight’s on Wednesday. Republicans have had a tendency to want to slash Medicaid, skilled care’s biggest source of funding, while Democrats have shown a penchant for tort reform and increasing regulation, Porter pointed out.
With Democrats taking control of the House and Republicans growing their control of the Senate, Porter said his hope is that those two forces will balance out.
“We’re in a situation where each side is going to keep each other in check, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. He added, however, that the flipside could be that it will likely be more difficult to chase achievements in a divided government.
“The unfortunate situation for us is that we’re not in a position to necessarily advance a lot of new things,” he said. “There may be some bipartisan opportunities for us, possibly, particularly around the issue of immigration. We’re somewhat hopeful that there will be some resolution on that issue in the next couple of years, and ideally, we’ll be in a position to increase the supply of workers for our members. That’s an opportunity for bipartisanship.”
Across-the-aisle collaboration may be hard to come by, leading up to what promises to be a contentious presidential election in 2020. But that was going to be the focus of LeadingAge officials regardless, one top official said Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, the election doesn’t change the way we operate, it doesn’t change our mission and it doesn’t change our priorities,” Niles Godes, senior vice president of congressional affairs, told McKnight’s. We’ve always worked in bipartisan way and we’ll continue to do that, and stay aggressive in pursuing the policies that are important to providers and older adults.”
Officials with both trade groups said that bolstering the workforce, along with keeping Medicaid funding stable, continue to be top-of-mind for the field. On the latter, voters in three states — Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — approved ballot referenda Tuesday to expand the program, though Porter noted that those dollars will mostly go to younger individuals. “It doesn’t do much for us, so the impact is nonexistent.”
However, Democrats landed 16 governor spots across the nation on Tuesday, while Republicans tallied 19. The hope is that, in those blue states, nursing homes will see stability in reimbursement.
“Having a Democrat governor, in some ways, I think helps shore up stability around Medicaid for many of our members,” Porter said. “It depends on the state you’re in obviously, but I think overall, last night’s outcome is good for the industry.”
Godes said LeadingAge is excited for “the opportunity to educate” new members of Congress about the needs of seniors and skilled nursing providers.
Similarly, Porter encouraged nursing home leaders to reach out to their new elected officials to voice their concerns.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out,” he said. “I like to say we want to keep our heads down and tend to our knitting. There are a lot of issues out there that the Democratic House is going to be going after the president on that are much bigger and broader than us. I’m encouraging our members to get to know their new members of Congress and get them in your facilities to understand the business challenges you have.”