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Posted: October 16, 2020

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Lawmakers Discuss Affordable Care Act Threats, Federal Officials Cover COVID-19 Impacts at NIHB National Tribal Health Conference

WASHINGTON, DC—October 15, 2020—The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) today during its annual National Tribal Health Conference welcomed key federal officials and lawmakers to address conference attendees on areas that are important to their work including funding for critical programs to support COVID-19 response and the extreme threat to the Affordable Care Act, which reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and protected the Indian health system.

“As the only national Tribal organization dedicated exclusively to advocating for the fulfillment of the federal trust responsibility for health, it’s the duty of the National Indian Health Board to bring key decision-makers to our collective Tribal table and demand that our issues be heard and questions answered,” said NIHB CEO Stacy A. Bohlen. “With COVID-19 still infiltrating our Tribal communities and the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act, our health systems are at risk and it will take concerted, coordinated effort by Tribal leaders, lawmakers and the Administration to ensure that American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest health status and outcomes during the pandemic and after.”

NIHB Phoenix Area Board Member and Walker River Paiute Tribe Chairwoman Amber Torres along with NIHB Portland Area Board Member and Lummi Nation Councilman Nickolaus Lewis led a discussion with Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) on the Affordable Care Act lawsuit and what it means for veterans health, Medicaid Expansion and COVID-19 relief in Indian Country. Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) provided brief opening remarks discussing the significance of the Affordable Care Act to Indian Country, and the efforts within the Senate to protect and preserve healthcare for all American Indians and Alaska Natives in line with the treaty obligations of the federal government.

“Tribal Nations prepaid for our healthcare. Our Treaties require the federal government to fund our people’s care for the next seven generations and beyond. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act is foundation to the Indian health system and how it operates. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act has been integral to improving access to care for Tribal citizens, bringing significant revenue sources into the chronically underfunded Indian health system and stabilizing Tribal and IHS health systems. It is paramount that Tribal Nations and advocates unite to protect, preserve and expand these critical pieces of legislation,” said Chairwoman Torres.

Senator Udall, Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, expressed his concern over the threats to the ACA and IHCIA and his commitment to continue to fight for Tribal Nations for the remainder of his term.

“The Affordable Care Act literally saves lives across Indian Country,” said Sen. Udall. “If the ACA is overturned by the Supreme Court, it would be devastating for Native communities, throwing the Indian Health Service into chaos and stripping health care access from millions of Native Americans. I encourage Native Americans to raise their voices because Native health is at stake during confirmation of the next Supreme Court justice. I will be doing everything in my power to fight alongside Tribes to protect access to affordable health care for all Native Americans.”

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Conference attendees also heard from Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health who has been an outspoken proponent of science and safety during the COVID-19 crisis. In his video presentation, Dr. Fauci provided the latest science and continuing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and shared the current status of the search for a vaccine. Dr. Fauci also encouraged Tribal Leaders to engage with the COVID-19 Prevention Network.

IHS Director RADM Michael Weahkee also provided an agency update today. In his address, RADM Weahkee announced the release of IHS’s vaccine distribution plan for public comment and current efforts to renew and expand Special Diabetes Program for Indians to support diabetes prevention and treatment efforts in Indian Country.

“We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this year’s NIHB conference. Our relationship with Tribes and Tribal organizations is especially important as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities and work together to deliver crucial health and human services across Indian Country,” said RADM Weahkee.

NIHB closes its virtual conference tomorrow, October 16 with a plenary session discussion on behavioral health in Indian Country and a media panel with guests from Indian Country Today, Cronkite News and POLITICO.

Social media information:
  • Facebook: /NIHB1972
  • Twitter: @NIHB1
  • Instagram: @NIHB1
  • Hashtags: #NIHB #NTHC2020 #healthytribalcommunities #IndianCountry #Nativehealth #ReauthorizeSDPI #ActofLove #WalkwithNIHB

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National Indian Health Board Mission Statement
Established by the Tribes to advocate as the united voice of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, NIHB seeks to reinforce Tribal sovereignty, strengthen Tribal health systems, secure resources, and build capacity to achieve the highest level of health and well-being for our People.
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