|Amy Eden of the Muscogee Nation Department of Health explains how the Affordable Care Act affects American Indians and Alaska Natives:
Health Insurance coverage has not always been a familiar term within Indian Health Country. The unfamiliarity could be linked back to treaties made in 1787 between federally recognized Tribes and the United States Government. The treaties obligated the United States Government to provide health care services to Tribal members at no cost to the patient, in exchange for land that belonged to the Tribes. Due to this obligation, there was no apparent reason for an American Indian or Alaska Native to purchase any additional health insurance coverage.
Over the years, Indian Health has significantly grown along with the rest of the health care industry; and unfortunately the U.S government has not always been able to provide the appropriate amount of funding that is needed. In 1998, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, P.1.94-437, authorized the Indian Health Service, Tribal Health and Urban Indian Health, (I/T/U) the ability to bill and collect third party reimbursement for the services provided to the patient. This reimbursement from insurance companies has created a dependable, sustainable revenue stream, which is directly placed back into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation health care system; which helps pay for additional equipment and services for the patient population.
Since ITU’s have had the ability to bill, they highly encourage their patient load to apply for health care Insurance coverage. Although, before now, due to either the high financial expense or a pre-existing condition, the percentage of patients that carry health insurance coverage has been minimal in comparison to the patient population.
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(The Native American Times 2/10)