A tense political environment in Washington, D.C., means long-term care providers headed to Capitol Hill need to be passionate but polite, executives said Monday.

“I’ve heard from many of you about concerns in this new political environment, and about how potential changes to programs like Medicaid might impact the people you serve,” said LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan. Her comments during the LeadingAge PEAK general session reflected challenges providers are having, trying to balance forming relationships with new members of Congress while also pushing back against Medicaid changes in the GOP’s healthcare replacement bill.

“The American Health Care Act proposes drastic reductions to Medicaid, the magnitude of which would force states to cut the number of people covered, eliminate services from coverage, cut payments to providers, or a combination of these. This would be devastating,” she said.

While LeadingAge PEAK is non-partisan and non-ideological, providers can’t ignore “the hyper partisan environment we are in,” she said. But there is room for activism, not just using hope as a strategy, Sloan said.

“I am buoyed by several truths: Our purpose is solid, noble and extremely important. Our missions are honorable. Our work is essential. Growing old isn’t partisan,” she said. “I hope you take the high moral ground during your Congressional visits so the adults in your care can live with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Also at the general session, leaders announced a new partnership among the Center for Applied Research, the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston and the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation at Community Catalyst. LeadingAge also recently hired a vice president of workforce initiatives, Susan Hildebrandt, to help organizations working on recruitment and retention issues.

Among updates on requirements of participation, LeadingAge’s Cheryl Phillips, M.D., said the organization was asking for a delay of Phase 2, which is scheduled to take effect Nov. 28. Providers should have a year after receiving guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is expected to arrive this summer.

“We want to do this well,” Phillips said.

She also encouraged providers to tell lawmakers how the survey system is broken.

“It’s, ‘The beatings won’t stop until morale improves,’” she said. “It is punitive and our oversight process does not drive excellence.”