John O'Connor
John O’Connor

We’ve all seen those horror films where the villain appears to be terminated — only to return for more.

It appears a real-live version of this scenario may now be playing out in Washington.

But first, some background: When Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain recently cast a decisive vote against Obamacare’s repeal, it appeared the matter had been settled. After all, the clock was running, and tax reform was still waiting.

For senior living operators who had spent the spring and summer dreading a health system reboot, McCain’s choice delivered long-awaited relief.

But like the proverbial villain who can’t be killed, repeal and replace efforts appeared to rise from the dead this week. An 11thhour measure backed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has quickly gained momentum. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has offered support, along with the White House. Even Sen. McCain is indicating he might play nice this time. There is a real sense in Washington that this bill just might squeak through.

Which is about the last thing most senior living organizations want to hear. Already, two groups have pointed out what this bill would do to Medicaid support. Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said the funding reductions would be “catastrophic.”

Niles Godes, senior vice president of congressional affairs for LeadingAge, said the proposal “is bad for older adults and bad for America.”

The Senate has less than two weeks to vote on this measure under reconciliation rules. After Sept. 30, the approval threshold jumps from 50 votes to 60, meaning Democrats also would have to go along. Which, to say the least, is unlikely.

So we may be looking at a real cliffhanger here.

But unlike a movie that can soon be forgotten, operators are going to have to live with the fate of this bill. Let’s just hope there’s a happy ending.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].