By Steve Moran

Not letting the virtual format get in the way, NIC knocks it out of the park with their opening keynote panel discussion, moderated by prominent journalist Soledad O’Brian who was talking to Mark Parkinson, the CEO of AHCA, and Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of CMS. 

A couple of notable quotes:

“The enemy is the bug, not people, not leaders” 

-Andy Slavitt

“What we are going through has been a clinical nightmare and a business disaster”

-Mark Parkinson 

The Highlights

The tone of the conversation is that while bloodied and bruised and mindful of the tragic number of cases of COVID-19 and deaths, this is a watershed moment for senior living and for the country as we reimagine how we care for older residents.

As noted in the first quote, perhaps for the first time in our history, we have taken a mass casualty event (this pandemic), and rather than seeing it as the common enemy, leaders and the media are using it as a political football with the message that more people are getting sick and dying than need to.

  1. The country just needs two things to get control of the virus:
    1. Wearing a piece of cloth (masks)
    2. Caring about other people
  2. We are going to get through this crisis. And senior living and nursing homes are still good investments.  It has been a clinical nightmare and a business disaster that has resulted in a drop in census and an increase in costs. In order for us to get to recovery, we will need to see the census come back.
  3. There are reasons to be optimistic:
    1. The government sees the importance of senior living and is giving aid
    2. The vaccine is coming and it will make what we do a lot safer and better
    3. As we figure out how to keep residents safe, they will come back because what we do is so important
    4. This crisis has created powerful moments of opportunities for innovation, for better ways of doing things
    5. It has caused us, the government and the industry, to figure out how to do things we were sure we could not do
    6. We are too important and too big to fail
  4. The next 3-12 months will be critical to the country and the role senior living plays in the aging services sector. The most powerful thing said in the whole conversation was this:

    We (the senior living industry) are going to “in the next 6-12 months figure out whether we are leaders and a partner in analyzing or obstructionists.” We need to look in the mirror and ask how much of this crisis we could have controlled to save more lives.
  5. We need to rethink regulations so that we are regulating the things that are important to resident safety and quality of life. There are a lot of regulations out there that really just don’t make any sense. The problem is that CMS really only has a single “weapon” to make things better and that is regulation and so they end up stacking regulation on top of regulation.
  6. Infection control has always been a problem and we have accepted the problem as just there rather than tackling it, something hospitals did many years ago.
  7. Underfunding is the root of so many of the challenges.
  8. Particularly in skilled nursing, we need to do away with shared rooms which clearly contributed to the tragedy.