AHCA/NCAL conference report: ‘Our industry is under attack’

Rat Pack tribute? Check. Cheesy Elvis impersonator? Check. Scantily clad showgirls? But of course.

It’s conference week in Las Vegas for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living’s (AHCA/NCAL) 62nd Annual Convention & Expo, where organizers worked all the aforementioned Sin City icons into the proceedings to liven the anxious atmosphere among attendees.

Gathering after a summer of dismal economic news, Medicare cuts to skilled nursing facilities and threats of further reductions to senior entitlement programs, there was a mood of resignation to the forces working against provider interests. Meanwhile, determined opportunists eagerly sought updates on accountable care organizations (ACOs), bundled providers and capitation expansion, among other complex concepts that could determine the future of their organizations.

At Monday’s opening general session the association’s leadership recounted the myriad challenges that threaten the ability of providers to provide quality care at a time when 10,000 baby boomers a day are entering the ranks of senior citizenship. Mark Parkinson, president and CEO, AHCA/NCAL, put it bluntly: “Our industry is under attack. We’re fighting for our very survival.” He went on to implore attendees to participate in grassroots action, meet with local representatives and participate in the association’s political action committee.

Armed with new performance measures that are said to support the quality of services provided to seniors, NCAL aims to “tell the assisted living story to policy makers,” said Executive Director David Kyllo. “The federal government is asking lots of questions; they’ll only get tougher as budget talks continue,” he said.

But the most impassioned cry for action came from Robert Van Dyk, chair, AHCA. “Washington doesn’t respect us nor do they know what we do,” said Van Dyk. “Savings on entitlements can’t be found through arbitrary cuts. A committee of 12 [the “super committee” tasked with federal budget cuts] can’t repair in eight weeks the problems of a system that’s been in place for almost 50 years. The entire healthcare system needs to be dismantled and put back together.

“We need to pay for the care of patient needs regardless of where it’s delivered,” continued Van Dyk. “And we need to be part of that solution. ACOs and bundling represent the first glimpse of how this dilemma is being addressed … but these aren’t new concepts, just new names for managed care and capitated risk.”

Van Dyk said making a case for providers must come via data. “If we’re going to participate in future models that data is going to be critical—to show Washington and CMS that we’re not the problem, we’re the solution.”

Topics: Advocacy , Medicare/Medicaid