February 26, 2013
MIA: The Federal Long-Term Care Commission
It is almost an accepted fact that so-called “blue ribbon panels” or other government created fact-finding entities are often “all show and no action.” While they are commissioned to address every political issue under the sun, it is a rare government panel that actually produces suggestions what make their way into the law. In fact, many joke that having a proposal recommended by one of these panels is a negative, as policy changes suggested by these group almost never materialize.
That viewpoint may be overly pessimistic but the sad truth is that history is littered with examples of panels and commissions that are launched with great fanfare only to have negligible effects on policy.
Unfortunately, according a recent Forbes story, the federal “Long Term Care Commission” may be on track for the same inglorious fate. The Commission has an ambitious charge: to investigate issues related to long-term care delivery, financing, and workforce concerns. As industry observers might know, the group was created as part of a larger piece of legislation signed by the President a few months ago. However, since its inception little has been done. In fact, the panel itself has not been created. It seems that the White House has yet to make its picks (3 of them) to complete the fifteen member panel. Until that time, nothing can be done. The picks for the commission thus far are reportedly a mix of long-term care policy experts, nursing home industry representatives, doctors, an Alzheimer’s philanthropist, and more. The industry representatives apparently include former HCR Manorcare CEO and Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care chairman Stephen Guillard.
Handcuffed from the start?
The article author has critiqued the commission from the start, noting that the limitations placed on the entity via the law will make it difficult to prove effective. For one thing, it will have only six month to elect leaders, set an agenda, investigate, deliberate, and submit a report. Those familiar with the speed of any operation run out of D.C. appreciate how difficult it will be to meet that deadline. That is especially true considering that Commission has no budget and no staff. On top of all of that, Congress has zero incentive to actually do anything with the Commission recommendations. They are not required to even listen to the recommendations let alone introduce legislation based on the outcome.
However things shake out, however, there will eventually come a point when Congress will be forced to address the reality of changing demographics and a need for more quality long-term care services. Considering the gridlock inherent in federal politics in recent years, a safe bet is that no action will be taken until the last possible second, when problems have reached their peak. In this case, they might come sooner rather than later, as more and more seniors retire and find themselves in need of quality care that may not exist.