Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Health | Opinion
Mark Trahant: Indian exemption and insurance


"There is growing consensus about a key element of health care reform: a requirement that you must buy health insurance. The idea is that the insurance pools would be less expensive if every American were included – especially younger, healthier workers who for a variety of reasons decide not to buy insurance. The reform proposals would require people to sign up for Medicaid, buy subsidized insurance, or purchase a policy at work or on their own.

This would be difficult in Indian Country. Already Indian Country reflects the highest number of Americans who do not sign up for Medicare, the closest thing we have to universal coverage for the elderly (by my count almost a quarter of Native American elderly are not on the program). The story for Medicaid is similar. Moreover in recent studies one of the reasons for the low participation is the notion expressed by many who did not believe they should have to sign up for any program because health care is a treaty obligation of the United States.

Speaking at the National Indian Health Board Consumer Conference in Washington, D.C., Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the president supports an exemption from that mandate for individual American Indians and Alaskan Natives. “I’m going to make it very clear,” she said, “the administration strongly believes that the individual mandate and the subsequent penalties don’t apply to American Indians or Alaska Natives.”"

Get the Story:
Mandates & an intertribal endorsement (Mark Trahant 9/16)

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