Fund Medicaid program to benefit seniors

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In 1957, a group of concerned citizens in the Flathead Valley founded “The Lutheran Home” to provide a comfortable place for local seniors to live during their golden years. Sixty years later, The Lutheran Home has evolved and expanded to become Immanuel Lutheran Communities, but our mission is the same: to provide a safe, comfortable place for seniors to live — especially those seniors who have outlived their financial resources and cannot afford care for themselves.

Immanuel Lutheran Communities is a not-for-profit, Life Plan Community offering residential living, assisted living, memory support, rehabilitation services and skilled nursing care in Kalispell. Last year, we provided over $2 million of unreimbursed care to area seniors on Medicaid. These seniors have paid their fair share of taxes over their lifetimes; now it is time for us to give back. We must make their welfare a top priority, and allow them to receive the quality care and services they deserve, by fully funding the Medicaid program.

The “gap” between reimbursement paid by Medicaid and the cost to deliver services is growing, and as Montana’s population continues to age at the highest percentage rate in the country, we will soon have a crisis on our hands. As CEO of Immanuel Lutheran Communities, I am deeply concerned for seniors who are too physically frail or cognitively challenged to advocate for themselves. And I am concerned about how we can continue to provide such care in the Flathead Valley when we face competitive wage pressures, escalating costs of living, and a shrinking labor pool.

We depend on the Legislature to properly fund Medicaid reimbursement for “The Lutheran Home” and all nursing homes across the state. Reductions to the Medicaid program may force us to reduce the number of seniors we care for who are on Medicaid, and/or force us to raise private pay rates — which will, in turn, accelerate the rate at which seniors will outlive their financial resources and thus require eventual state assistance … which will cost the state more money over time.

Funding the Medicaid program for our area seniors must be a priority.

Jason R. Cronk is CEO of Immanuel Lutheran Communities in Kalispell.

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