AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson

The nation’s two strongest long-term care provider lobbying groups are uniting to form a singular, more powerful voice, the pair announced Tuesday morning.

The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care will essentially cease to exist after it is re-absorbed into the American Health Care Association around July 1.

AHCA, along with its sister group, the National Center for Assisted Living, is already the nation’s largest senior care association, with more than 11,000 members. The Alliance consists of nine major provider chains (representing more than 1,200 facilities in 43 states) and powerful multi-platform vendor Direct Supply.

The Alliance, which was founded in 1999 as an AHCA sub-group comprising major nursing home chains, made threatening overtures in 2005 with an independence drive. Disgruntled with what they viewed as lobbying that wasn’t focused or aggressive enough, Alliance members declared in August 2005 they would pull entirely out of AHCA affairs. They also expressed a desire to get away from catering to such a broad a membership base and the attendant education programs that go with it. Concerned about potential losses of clout and dues fees from splitting with such major players, AHCA changed executives and leadership treaded lightly. AHCA also overhauled its governing structure, in part, to court Alliance members’ favor.

Never too far apart to begin with, AHCA and Alliance public policy positions have been virtually identical in recent times.

The Alliance’s membership has dipped in recent years, losing several major providers and several hundred facilities’ representation. Among that number is UHS-Pruitt, which left the Alliance a few years ago when UHS-Pruitt CEO Neil Pruitt Jr. become AHCA board chairman.

Currently, only two Alliance members, HCR ManorCare and Medical Facilities of America, are not also AHCA members.

Ultimately, pressures from Washington seem to have forced the two lobbying groups back together.

“Faced with continued cuts and growing pressures on the systems that fund the care we provide, there was really only one choice — to band together to form one unified voice. The economic straits our profession faces necessitated this union,” said AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson, who will oversee all operations. “We have heard the call of our members [to form one lobbying voice], and we have responded.”

Parkinson said the merger should “make our profession stronger than it has every been.” The former Kansas governor added that AHCA/NCAL membership has climbed to an all-time high during his 18 months in the job.

Alliance President Alan G. Rosenbloom, who was president and CEO of the Pennsylvania chapter of the AHCA until 2006, echoed Parkinson’s endorsement of unity.

“For over a decade, AHCA and the Alliance have worked together to improve quality, boost transparency and increase accountability,” he said. “We look forward to sustaining this progress together.”

All major functions will be based at AHCA’s current headquarters in Washington, AHCA spokesman Greg Crist said. Many details of the merger, including some personnel issues, are yet to be worked out, he added.