Senior living providers have made much progress addressing the challenges that have confronted the industry over the past several years—attempts to reduce the provider tax, proposed reimbursement cuts and proposed assisted living regulations, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) President and CEO Mark Parkinson told those attending the opening session of the group's annual meeting. Almost 3,000 long-term and post-acure care providers are attending the meeting, according to event organizers.
"It's not an overstatement to say that our survival was at risk, so we played defense because we had to," Parkinson said. The organization created a quality initiative, offered solutions on policy to the federal government and hired "big-name" lobbyists to see that its messages were heard, he added.
"It's time to take our newfound strength and go on the offensive" to address the challenges still facing the industry, Parkinson said. Among those challenges, he added, are new payment models for skilled nursing—managed care, accountable care organizations, bundled payments for dual eligibles.
"They all have things in common: reduction in length of stay, reduction in rate, exclusion of providers and nothing good for our residents," Parkinson said. "If we just sit back and wait and see which of these new models catches on, it's not going to turn out well. The alternative is that we must play offense" by setting the agenda and offering solutions.
Assisted living providers face challenges, too, from those who propose regulating providers similarly to skilled nursing, Parkinson said. "Overregulation is the enemy of person-centered care," he added. "Overregulation forces us work on things that don't matter and, worse, it forces us to spend less time on things that really do matter."
He continued: "To those who would believe that they're going to enact a federal regulatory scheme on assisted living and further burden our skilled nursing members, my message is simple: It is not going to happen on my watch. It is not going to happen." But bold statements don't mean anything without action, he added, and they come with a price. He encouraged attendees to join their state associations if they aren't members, to become politically active if they aren't already, and to improve or maintain quality in their communities.
"It is never our turn" to accept cuts in Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement from the government, Parkinson said. "We've been cut enough."
Later in the day, Parkinson traveled to the White House, where President Obama signed the IMPACT Act into law.
Additional thoughts from speakers at the opening session:
Len Russ, chair of AHCA:
Providers are still challenged to be compensated appropriately for the care they provide, but AHCA/NCAL will unveil a "fresh" approach to payment reform in the next few weeks.
Pat Giorgio, chair of NCAL:
"Assisted living has changed in the past 10 years, even two years" because of the provision of therapy and dementia care as well as changing consumer expectations.
Dave Kyllo, executive director of NCAL:
"We cannot endure living in a vacuum. Collaboration is key. We must view all sectors as opportunities to spread our reach and mission."
AHCA/NCAL leaders' remarks preceded the keynote address by Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.).