By Jim Jenks

Congress is moving quickly to enact the American Health Care Act. This bill goes beyond its stated purpose to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act by fundamentally restructuring Medicaid.

If this bill becomes law, Medicaid would no longer be a guaranteed benefit available to seniors, children, and people with disabilities who qualify; instead, it would be a fixed dollar amount (a per-capita cap) that would be used to pay for only some of the services for some of the program-eligible people.

This proposed change to the structure and function of Medicaid is solely a means to reduce federal spending, and it puts our country’s most vulnerable people at risk. Two-thirds of the senior citizens who live in nursing homes, 39 percent of American children, and over 10 million people with disabilities are covered by Medicaid.

This bill, if it becomes law, will have even more dire consequences for Montana—the state whose population is aging faster than any other in the country—and for the Flathead Valley, which is aging faster than any other county in Montana.

Immanuel Lutheran Communities is dedicated to providing a comfortable home for

Flathead Valley seniors, and for 60 years the foundation of our mission has been to provide for those who can no longer afford to provide for themselves. Sixty percent of our residents are covered by Medicaid, which means over half of our residents will be put at risk of losing their home if this Medicaid restructuring becomes law as a part of the American Health Care Act.

I urge the members of the Montana congressional delegation to ensure full funding for the Medicaid program by rejecting the American Health Care Act in its current form. We can and must do better for our most vulnerable citizens.

Jim Jenks is a board member and past president of Immanuel Lutheran Communities.