‘Sense and reason’ dwindling commodities on Capitol Hill

It sometimes seems to me Congress lives in Wonderland while the rest of us slog in the real world doing the best we can with everything life throws at us.

I was editing our Washington columnist Bob Gatty’s September column this morning, (“Election heat lights fire under Medicare cuts opposition”), and I couldn’t help but think, ‘Doesn’t Congress realize how unabashedly transparent they are to the American people?’ Gatty writes that 47 congressmen and senators, in a display of “bipartisan” koombyah, are falling over each other congratulating themselves on getting the proposed $770 million in Medicare cuts for fiscal year 2009, shelved for the time being. Since we will have a new president in the White House come January, smart money would be on the proposal withering on the vine for good. Gatty further writes the 47 selfless civil servants involved are all up for re-election this year and realize seniors are a constituency who faithfully exercise their right and privilege to vote. Would the Congressional letter-writing campaign to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have been so feverish had it not been an election year? I may seem a little cynical on Congress’s newfound affront at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services cutting funding to one of our country’s most vulnerable segments, but even Acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems was surprised: “…in view of the widespread industry concern that a recalibration could potentially have adverse effects on beneficiaries, clinical staff, and the quality of SNF care, we will continue to evaluate the underlying data carefully as we reconsider implementing an adjustment in the future,” he says.

Don’t you love the “government-speak?” “Recalibration?” Huh? I had a city editor once tell me, “Never say ‘elongated yellow fruit’ if you mean ‘banana.’” Well, ladies and gentlemen, ‘recalibration’ means ‘cuts.’ Period.

The real heroes of Gatty’s column are those of you in the LTC industry, who, like a dog on Congress’s pant leg, wouldn’t let go until you were heard. Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, and Alan G. Rosenbloom, president of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, led the charge and refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. “Sense and reason” as Gatty puts it, won out. Isn’t it sad we have to fight so hard for sense and reason? Yarwood and Rosenbloom fought the fight because it was the right thing to do for a population that has a weak voice unless the long-term care industry speaks for it. Does it mean money in the coffers of long-term care facilities? You bet. Does that money go for essential care for the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers now trickling in to LTC facilities? You bet. I can’t think of a better cause to draw a line in the sand for.

(Bob Gatty’s “View on Washington” column on Medicare’s funding “about-face,” will appear in the September issue of Long-Term Living.)

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