Yarwood: Five-star rating system, card-check legislation loom large

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Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO
Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO
While the nursing home industry can be proud of its accomplishments in Washington over the last year, many challenges await. These include card-check legislation in Congress and a problematic five-star rating system, Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, said Monday at the 59th Annual Convention & Expo's Opening General Session in Nashville.

Sounding surprisingly upbeat, Yarwood offered a positive assessment about the state of long-term care today. Among other victories, in recent months the industry succeeded in holding off an expected $770 million Medicare cut stemming from RUGs refinement and securing a $780 million market basket increase for fiscal year 2009. He spoke before a crowd of nearly 3,000 providers at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Ted Koppel, former anchor and managing editor of ABC News Nightline, followed Yarwood as the keynote speaker.

Looking ahead, a new administration will bring "absolute change," Yarwood said. The association wants to be involved in the selection of new appointments in the next presidential administration. Potential threats on the horizon include so-called card check legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize at nursing homes, he said. Also, the association wants to postpone a "five-star rating system" that is set to take effect in December. An evaluation system based on the survey system is wrong, "just totally wrong," he said.

The association also will work with lawmakers to amend legislation that would increase transparency and increase fines against nursing homes with severe deficiencies. Also, the industry will continue to fight bills that would outlaw pre-dispute arbitration agreements in nursing homes. Non-financial issues could be more significant in the next year for the industry than the financial ones,Yarwood noted.