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S.E. Ruckman: Series on Affordable Care Act and Indian Country

The Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility on the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation. Photo from Indian Health Service

S.E. Ruckman is taking a closer look at the Affordable Care Act and its impact in Indian Country:
An ordinary glance might see Chinle, Arizona as sparse and unyielding. But it is the site of a bona fide bonanza. At this Navajo Reservation community, 734 have enrolled and nearly 20,000 residents have been provided with Affordable Care Act (ACA) information, local health officials said. The potential density for enrollment here could make Chinle ground zero for ACA recruitment in Indian country.

In this part of the Navajo reservation, there are 16 Navajo Nation chapter communities that gather once a month. Here, residents can signed up for ACA, get assistance on how to enroll or if requested, be visited by ACA navigators and assisted to register on their computer if they have one, said Ursula Knoki-Wilson, Chinle community relations coordinator.

“We still have a few more we need to do,” she said. “Most people want to come in (for enrollment).”

Getting residents here interested in a federal health care initiative has been done in teams, usually of two or three, who are bi-lingual. Navajo is still the primary language spoken at many of the 110 community chapters (the reservation equivalent of a county) dotted across the 27,400 sq. miles of the vast Navajo Nation Reservation. Its land territory spans four states, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. Its human territory counts more than 300,000 residents and the largest number of Native speakers in the country. This four-state territory is the most expansive Indian reservation in the United States.

Because Navajo is the first language for many of the outlying communities, translating the ACA jargon into their language was one of the first steps when health centers across the reservation started formulating plans for enrolling tribal citizens in the federal health care initiative, Knoki-Wilson said.

She said for the Chinle health service area, a task force committee was formed and a brochure was designed to be specifically culturally relevant. The brochure is in English but highlights specific questions that Natives usually want answered when dealing with health care, officials said.

Get the Story:
S.E. Ruckman: Affordable Care Act recruiters step up efforts to reach Indian Country (The Native American Times 1/5)

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