And we’re off!

I barely had a chance to digest my traditional New Year’s day feast of pork and sauerkraut when news reports that the so-called “fiscal cliff” had been averted started rolling in and my smartphone (to be specific, my uncool BlackBerry) flashed furiously with emails and media updates. Earlier, I had vowed to enjoy the holiday and try not to fret over work pressures. I reveled in the festivities of the day—feeding friends and family, sipping mimosas, playing heated games of Scrabble and cheering on football favorites.

But as my long-term care administrator and clinician friends and colleagues know, there’s rarely true respite from the unrelenting demands of the healthcare industry. And as if you didn’t have enough work-related issues on your plate, 2013 has kicked off with a political and regulatory bang.

LTC provider groups weighed in on Wednesday with their assessments of the fiscal cliff deal—breathing a collective sigh of relief—if only for a moment. American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) president and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement: "We are grateful that the House and Senate steered away from cuts to Medicare through the sequester. As we’ve shown throughout these negotiations, the long term and post-acute sectors stand at the brink of our own cliff, already reeling from deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare throughout 2012.
"As Congress prepares for legislation to raise the debt ceiling, we stand ready to work with lawmakers to continue acknowledging cuts are something we cannot absorb in 2013. This profession needs a break to return as healthy contributors to economic growth while delivering quality-driven health care.”

Providers will also cheer the extension of the Medicare Part B therapy caps extension process.

Meanwhile, LeadingAge president and CEO Larry Minnix pledged to work with Congress to support a new LTC commission to replace the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act (CLASS Act)—similar to one the association had recommended to address the broad question of how to best provide long-term services and supports.

“Hopefully, the new commission will recommend a better way to fund this family need and the overburdened Medicaid program,” Minnix said. “If not CLASS, which was repealed in the bill, then what? This public problem must be solved.”

Of course we all know that this deal is a temporary solution—kicking the can down the road—before the debt ceiling issues take center stage again in a few weeks and the pols renew their battles over spending cuts. And it’s highly unlikely that LTC providers will dodge the next round of cuts, despite Parkinson’s hopeful plea.

So let’s fasten our seatbelts and brace for another bumpy ride. And on a more upbeat note, here’s wishing all our Long-Term Living readers a happy, healthy, caring 2013.

Topics: Medicare/Medicaid