Health | Law | National

Alaska Natives look to Obamacare to cover IHS budget shortfall






The Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage is managed by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Photo from ANTHC

Alaska Native providers are looking to the Affordable Care Act to cover Indian Health Service budget shortfalls.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium are testing out a program that basically provides insurance for free. But few people have been willing to sign up.

“There is some resistance. And I think that comes from people feeling that our nation, our federal government, made a vow to the Native people of our country to provide health care for them,” Andrea Thomas, the outreach and enrollment manager for SEARHC, told The Washington Post.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to carry health insurance. But it exempts Alaska Natives and American Indians who receive care through the IHS or through tribally-managed programs like those provided by ANTHC and SEARHC.

But that doesn't mean Alaska Natives and American Indians can't supplement their service with ACA coverage. However, as of April 2014, only 115 self-identified Alaska Natives and American Indians in Alaska had signed up for Obamacare, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.


The Kasaan Health Center in Kasaan, Alaska, a clinic that's part of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. Photo from Facebook

ANTHC and SEARHC recently settled contract support costs claims with the IHS. ANTHC received $153 million, the largest amount to date, while SEARHC received $53 million for underpayment of their contracts.

Get the Story:
The trouble with trying to sign people up for health insurance when care is already free (The Washington Post 8/18)

Federal Register Notices:
Contract Support Costs (April 8, 2014)
Contract Support Costs (February 21, 2014)

Relevant Documents:
FY14 Omnibus Text & Joint Explanatory Statement | Detailed Omnibus Summary | Subcommittee Allocations

Supreme Court Decisions:
Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter (June 18, 2012)
Cherokee Nation v. Leavitt (March 1, 2005)

Related Stories:
Alaska tribes still in contract support costs negotiations with IHS (08/14)
Mark Begich: A permanent solution for contract support costs (07/30)
IHS pays $53M to settle another contract support cost dispute (7/25)
ANTHC accepts $153M settlement in contract support cost case (07/01)