Mark Parkinson

Las Vegas — Despite the “tough” political and regulatory environment, assisted living and skilled nursing providers “will make it through this. And many of you will not only survive; you will prosper,” American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson told those attending the opening general session of the organization’s 68th Annual Convention & Expo.

“It’s been a tough year in D.C.,” he said, “and that’s because we’ve been under attack.”

Proposed cuts to the Medicaid program as part of the effort in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which would have changed Medicaid funding to block grants or per capita caps, “would have put most of our skilled nursing members and many of our assisted living members out of business,” Parkinson said. “It was really just that dramatic. And it has been a rollercoaster. Just when we think we have the darn thing defeated, it comes back.”

At the operator level, it’s been a difficult year as far as occupancy, too, he said. In fact, “I think you can make the case that 2017 really is the toughest year to operate,” Parkinson said.

He shared four reasons he has hope for assisted living and skilled nursing.

  1. The sector has never had a stronger presence in Washington, Parkinson said, spending $13 million on political activity in the past election cycle ($2 million formerly was typical for the organization), sending 130,000 letters and emails to members of Congress regarding recent healthcare reform efforts, and hosting more than 200 political events.
  2. Operators that can prove they are low-cost, high-quality providers will have an advantage, he said. Assisted living and skilled nursing facilities cost “significantly less” than hospitals or long-term acute care hospitals. ”The markets will be efficient and eventually send the people to us,” Parkinson added.
  3. The coming “silver tsunami” will gradually build, and the oldest members of the 18-year baby boom generation turn 79 in 2025.
  4. “We don’t let anything get in our way,” he said, pointing out as an example the many communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico that safely evacuated residents and made sacrifices due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

A moment of silence

The session had begun with a moment of silence in recognition of the 58 people who died and more than 500 who were injured when a gunman shot at nearby attendees of an outdoor concert from a hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Resort on Oct. 1.

Parkinson said the organization consulted with AHCA and NCAL board members and decided to continue with plans for the convention two weeks later.

“We have a choice to make,” he told attendees. “We can be here and feel guilty about it. We can be in mourning. We can just kind of go through the motions. That’s what the madman would have wanted. But I’m not going to do that. To hell with this guy.”

AHCA/NCAL said 2,700 assisted living and post-acute care providers were registered for the meeting. Leaders told McKnight’s Senior Living that they didn’t see more registration cancellations compared with previous years due to the location.

The opening general session’s keynote speaker, author Jim Collins, shared thoughts on successful leadership.

Also at the meeting:

  • NCAL is giving meeting attendees a sneak peek at its AL Cost Calculator in the Prime Care Technologies booth, No. 725. The web-based resident assessment tool, which will be free to NCAL members, is being designed to help members make targeted staffing decisions across their entire organizations. The tool, with 25 health and services categories, will automatically calculate monthly costs for direct care and allocate total monthly care costs per community. The tool is still in the development stages and should be launched in 2018. More information will be made available to members before then. Data will be hosted by Prime Care Technologies.
  • NCAL announced that it is partnering with the American College of Health Care Administrators to offer NCAL members a discount on ACHCA’s assisted living administrator program (the CALA designation). ACHCA is at Booth 265.

The expo hall is open 11 a.m to 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The meeting continues with educational sessions and other activities through Wednesday.