A cliffhanger for long-term care

Is it just me, or does it feel to you, too, as if the long-term care industry has been through the ringer this past year? While it’s been exhilarating covering our rapidly evolving industry and the broader healthcare landscape, I have to tell you, I’m exhausted from trying to keep up with it all.  

A year ago, who would have thought that such terms as “sequestration” and “fiscal cliff” would roll off our tongues so easily (even as some of us still grapple with comprehending the full impact of these concepts on our lives and industry).

And yet here we stand, just weeks away from the very real possibility that our national leaders will fail to avert the cliff’s resulting massive budget cuts across the board for federal programs, and painful tax hikes for all. Medicare provider payments alone would be reduced by 2 percent should sequestration take place.

Just this week, it’s been reported that President Barack Obama has proposed cutting $340 billion from Medicare spending over 10 years, in his fiscal year 2013 budget, as part of his initial bargaining stance with Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) and congressional Republicans, during the fiscal cliff negotiations. So fiscal cliff or not, Medicare will take a hit.

But back to our immediate concern—the cliff. Who has the most to lose? The middle class poor—those who struggle to support their families and yet don’t qualify for public aid. LeadingAge president Larry Minnix reminds us in a letter to his membership this week that in addition to your lower-income residents this includes many of your staff, including middle managers, foodservice supervisors, maintenance engineers, staff nurses and service coordinators. “They are the ones who have more responsibility for service outcomes and will have less to work with if we don’t avoid the ‘cliff,’” he writes.

With the negotiations at a stalemate, President Obama took his message on the road today, hoping to leverage support coming out of his reelection for the Democrats’ position, which seeks to retain Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. At the same time, Republicans decried his “campaign-style” events, saying the president should remain in Washington working with his own party on a palatable compromise.

The post-election goodwill glow of promised bipartisanship has (not surprisingly) turned sour. The drama being played out is turning into a true cliffhanger for the American people and the long-term care industry. Stay tuned.

Topics: Advocacy