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Health | Opinion
Mark Trahant: Tribal provisions in health reform


"This week the Senate Finance Committee continues what’s called an “open executive session,” the process of weeding through hundreds of amendments to the America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009. One by one amendments are considered, added or rejected until the bill takes a form ready for a vote by the full Senate.

There are a number of provisions for Indian Country that still need to survive this process. The first is the exemption for American Indians from the health insurance mandate (at least the penalties). The language of that provision is broad, a definition that includes American Indians and Alaskan Natives “irrespective of whether he or she lives on or near a reservation, is a member of a tribe, band, or other organized group of Indians, including those tribes, bands, or groups terminated since 1940 and those recognized now or in the future by the State in which they reside.”

This definition makes the most sense because it will make the law fairly easy to administer. All it would take is to check a box on a Federal Income Tax Return and be identified as an eligible American Indian or Alaskan Native.

So far, at least, this exemption hasn’t surfaced much in the larger public discourse. Jane Hamsher, one of the few bloggers who have written about the exemption, said it’s not a surprise because “the three Democrats … are part of the ‘gang of six’ come from states (Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico) with disproportionately large Native American populations.”"

Get the Story:
Spotlight on the Native American provisions (Mark Trahant 9/28)

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Mark Trahant: First Americans are last in health (7/21)
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