Protect Our Care Montana: Health Disparities in Indigenous Communities During the COVID-19 Crisis
Join us for a virtual press call with Representative Barbara Bessette (D HD-24), Dr. Damion Killsback, Senior Advisor for Tribal Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Anna Whiting Sorrell, former head of Montana DPHHS, and Representative Sharon Stewart Peregoy (D HD-21) to discuss the importance of Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and access to quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Indigenous communities, in addition to health disparities and barriers to quality health care that the Indigenous communities faces.Posted by Protect Our Care Montana on Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Due to the political standing of tribes in the U.S., Indigenous people are the only group in the U.S. with a codified right to health care, according to a 2017 report by a group of researchers from the University of North Dakota, the National Indian Health Board and the Native American Rights Fund. But the Indian Health Service, which provides services to insured and uninsured tribal citizens, has been underfunded for decades, the report said. It has also faced criticism for poor care and facilities, among other inadequacies, in recent years. The ACA permanently reauthorized legislation governing the Indian health system, according to the 2017 report. It also improved access to health care and the level of care available to patients. The law has led to IHS and tribally owned health care facilities collecting more from insurance companies for their services, allowing them to offer more services, hire more staff and upgrade equipment and facilities, the Government Accountability Office said last year. The law also created better access to specialized care at non-IHS and tribal facilities. “Now we see more than ever how important it is for people to have access to treatment of any kind, and how important it is to push prevention and to make sure that we can get rid of these health disparities among our vulnerable populations,” said Rep. Barbara Bessette, D-Great Falls, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Economic Development Office is accepting applications for #Coronavirus business relief grants. The deadline is November 15, 2020, or until the $1 million fund is exhausted. #CSKT #COVID19 #Montana https://t.co/NNZ9nfZVWf— indianz.com (@indianz) September 28, 2020
In 2012, 40% of Montana resident American Indians and Indigenous Alaskans were uninsured — the highest percentage in the country, according to the 2017 report. Medicaid expansion in states including Montana has also led to many Indigenous people becoming insured. With ACA and Medicaid expansion, tribal citizens have also been able to access improved preventative care and education to help alleviate conditions like diabetes and heart disease, said Peregoy, who is a member of the Crow Nation. “If ACA is repealed, we are going to go back 30 years in terms of health, because right now Indian Health Service is able to provide us the preventative care, which we need to roll back the disparities,” she said.
The increase in COVID-19 cases we are seeing in Montana is concerning, and now more than ever, we need every Montanan to do their part to protect our loved ones and communities. #MaskUpMT, social distance, and follow guidelines from your local public health.— Steve Bullock (@GovernorBullock) September 28, 2020
Chris Aadland covers tribal affairs in Montana as a Report for America corps member based in Billings. Before moving to Montana he covered the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming for the Casper Star-Tribune, and has also reported for the Wisconsin State Journal. Contact Chris at email@example.com and follow @cjaadland on Twitter.
Note: This story originally appeared on Montana Free Press. It is published under a Creative Commons license.
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