John O'Connor illustration
McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor
John O'Connor
John O’Connor

James Balda must be really smart. Either that, or he’s getting advice from people who are. Then again, perhaps both statements are true?

For any way you slice it, Argentum’s president and CEO wants to do something that runs against conventional wisdom. It also happens to be brilliant.

What is that something, you ask? It’s developing and maintaining a solid working relationship with our federal lawmakers.

Speaking Tuesday at the organization’s annual meeting, Balda touched on many of the meat-and-potatoes issues that one might expect. They included the need for better jobs training, more grass roots involvement and why senior living is positioned to compete in an environment that increasingly puts a premium on value-based care.

But also in the mix was a call for better relations with the US Congress.

Wait, doesn’t that run counter to what everyone knows: That senior living is regulated by state rather than federal lawmakers? Historically, that might have been true enough. But to borrow a line from Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin.

Increasingly, the actions of Congress are affecting senior living in ways both subtle and obvious. For example, these lawmakers determine where funds go for things such as job training, care options for veterans, when distributions must be plucked from IRAs and 401(k) plans, Social Security payments, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and more.

Directly or indirectly, these issues — and many others — can affect both the way you are regulated and your bottom line.

That alone is reason to be on good terms with lawmakers in Washington, particularly those with clout.

But there is another justification that might be even more compelling. Luckily, none of the 535 current members of Congress has shown any recent interest in introducing legislation that would make senior living a federally regulated enterprise. At least, not yet.

But what’s to stop any of them — or any future members — from doing that? In a word, nothing.

If or when that day occurs, it might be helpful to be on good terms with the kinds of lawmakers who can get things done. Or not done.

The hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. But how can you even take a shot if you’re not in the game?

Balda wants to make sure senior living stays in the game. For that, he deserves your support — and thanks.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.

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