Nearly two months ago, Congress created a commission to recommend reforms to the current long-term care system. So what has happened since? Not much.
Leaders of Congress have appointed members to serve on the panel but President Obama—who has three of 15 picks– has not yet made his choices. The commission can’t select a chairman, find a staff, or set an agenda until he does, so for now the effort remains on hold.
Sources say the delay is mostly bureaucratic—it often takes the White House time to review background checks and run candidates through the usual political traps.
The commission members picked so far are an intriguing mix. They include health and long-term care policy experts, three representatives from the nursing home and the senior service industry, two physicians, a union official, a philanthropist focused on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and a Medicare consumer advocate. Somewhat surprisingly, it has no members explicitly representing the views of people with disabilities, family caregivers, or the insurance industry.
As I have written previously, this commission will operate under severe constraints. It is supposed to address three big issues–long-term care financing, delivery, and workforce challenges. It has no budget so its staff will be made up of people detailed from Congress or the Administration. It has only six months to submit a report (the clock starts ticking once Obama discloses his choices). After Obama makes his picks, the panel will have nine members appointed by Democrats but only six selected by Republicans–a ratio that already has the GOP planning to play defense. Most troubling, Congress is not required to act on the panel’s recommendations.
Some optimists believe the commission can achieve some modest goals—by framing the importance of long-term care reform and perhaps by agreeing to small reforms. But others have much lower expectations.
Who are its members?
Democrats have picked:
Javaid Anwar, a Las Vegas internist who is vp for health services at a large casino/hotel company and served as chair of Nevada’s Committee on Access to Health Care.
Laphonza Butler, president of the Service Employee’s International United Long Term Care Workers’ union.
Bruce Chernof, a physician who is president and CEO of the California-based SCAN Foundation, which focuses on senior issues.
Judy Feder, my colleague at the Urban Institute who served as a senior health aide in the Clinton Administration and staff director of the 1989-90 Pepper Commission.
Judith Stein, founder of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, which represents beneficiaries in their disputes with the Medicare program.
George Vradenburg, a former media executive and founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s—a non-profit that advocates largely for research dollars aimed at finding a cure for dementia.
The GOP picks are:
Judith Brachman, who formerly served as a housing official in the Reagan Administration and director of the Ohio Department of Aging, now chairs the Jewish Federation of North America’s Aging and Family Caregiving Committee. JFNA represents long-term care providers.
Bruce Greenstein, Louisiana’s Secretary of Health and Hospitals, who was formerly a senior official at the federal Department of Health and Human Services and managing director for worldwide health at Microsoft.
Stephen Guillard was CEO of several large skilled nursing facility operators including HCR ManorCare and was chairman of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, a trade group that represents large for-profit nursing home companies.
Neil Pruitt is chairman and CEO of UHS-Pruitt Corp, an integrated health care company, and board chair of The American Health Care Assn., the largest trade group representing nursing homes and other senior service providers.
Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a free-market oriented public policy organization that focuses on health care issues.
Mark Warshawsky is a pension expert who directs retirement research at the benefits firm Towers Watson and was a senior official at the Treasury Department from 2004-2006.
There are some impressive people in this group and a few who seem to have little knowledge of long-term care. They represent a wide ideological spectrum which, depending on the panel’s dynamics, could be an opportunity to find bipartisan consensus or, more likely, a recipe for gridlock. But the commission won’t be anything at all until Obama picks the last three members.