Many senior living operators once worked in skilled care settings. Why did they leave? For quite a few, the answer boils down to two words: federal regulations.

Senior living, on the other hand, currently takes its marching orders from state officials. To be sure, some places – Maine and Wisconsin immediately come to mind – can be a bit heavy-handed when it comes to rules of participation. But in general, states have taken a far gentler approach to policing the senior living field.

My guess is that roughly 99.99% of the sector’s operators are happy to keep things that way. But it’s also possible that a majority see federal rules as a matter of when, not if.

This is, after all, a sector that provides services and borderline healthcare (borderline?) to more than a million frail, old people each day. As inviting targets for Uncle Sam go, this one is a no-brainer.

A largely unnoticed development now has more than a few operators wondering whether the Trojan Horse carrying federal rules has arrived. But in this case, the proverbial steed was always inside the gate.

As you may have heard, Argentum applied to the American National Standards Institute last April to become an accredited developer of voluntary industry standards. The problem here, as several other associations see it, is that voluntary standards might not stay voluntary.

There is additional noise from the others about not having a full voice in developing the proposed measures. To be fair, there is some merit in such claims. But let’s not kid ourselves about what’s really at stake here.

Federal rules are just about the last thing this sector wants. Any moves that are interpreted as helping that happen will be dealt with harshly. Especially by people who know all too well what the feds might do in the name of quality.

Related Articles