John O'Connor
John O’Connor

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan delivered a powerful message to the organization’s members this week.

“Going back to where we were is not an option,” she insisted.

The “back to where we were” phrase was a not-so-subtle reference to the field’s recent past. That was a troubling, dangerous time. It was marked by inadequate provider payments, insufficient home- and community-based services, and a dearth of affordable housing options.

Some might argue that current conditions sound pretty much the same. And they’d have a point. Yet there is something very different on the table these days: President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan. It could be a real game-changer.

Not that there’s a guarantee it will ever happen.

For starters, the measure appears to be devoid of bipartisan support. It’s very likely that Democrats may have to pass it with zero votes from GOP lawmakers. Plus, there’s the little matter of two Democratic senators insisting on a more austere plan before they’ll sign on.

Adding more intrigue to the mix is the very real possibility that Democrats will not control Congress after next year’s mid-term elections. So there is a growing sense of urgency among this bill’s supporters to get the measure passed now, before it’s too late.

For now, there is not much industry leaders can do but to call on members to keep pushing — and to keep reminding lawmakers of what is at stake. To be sure, those are necessary and helpful actions. But will they be enough? We don’t know.

By its actions, Congress could vote to dramatically help providers and the residents they serve. Or lawmakers could do nothing.

One choice opens the door to a better future. The other sends the field back to a place where nobody wants to go.

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