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Supreme Court to debate health care reform law next week

The U.S. Supreme Court will hold an unprecedented three days of arguments next week to consider the landmark Affordable Care Act.

The law includes a permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. If the court invalidates the entire law, as Republicans and some critics are arguing, Congress will have to redo the IHCIA.

Besides the IHCIA, other provisions of the law benefit Indian Country. Tribes can participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program for the first time. The law also exempts health benefits provided by tribes from being treated as income tax.

The most controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to obtain health insurance. American Indians and Alaska Natives who receive care through the Indian Health Service, tribes, Alaska Native entities and urban Indian organizations are exempt from the mandatory health coverage requirement.

"Tribes have a lot at stake in this Supreme Court decision," John Dossett, the general counsel for the National Congress of American Indians, said earlier this month as tribal leaders met in Washington, D.C. On behalf of tribes, NCAI submitted a brief to the court to outline their issues.

The health care arguments take place next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Supreme Court will release the audio from each session in the afternoon of that day.

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