Affordable Care Act Repeal Could Put Tribal Healthcare at Risk

Feb 1, 2017

A bipartisan group of lawmakers says repealing the Affordable Care Act would have detrimental effects on Native American healthcare. They’re concerned it would nullify the separate Indian Health Care Improvement Act. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Congressman Tom O'Halleran (D-Ariz.) authored a letter to congressional leaders urging them to consider the effects on the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as they move to repeal the Affordable Care Act. More than 2 million Native Americans are covered under the IHCIA.
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The IHCIA was permanently reauthorized in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act took effect. It provides coverage for more than 2 million tribal members across the nation. Now, some lawmakers are worried about the gray area between the Affordable Care Act and the Indian Health Care Act.

Democratic Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran authored a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. It says the federal government is legally required to provide tribal healthcare and a repeal could defund vital programs.

"There’s treaties that have been signed, there’s trust obligations that have been part of the whole process, and those trust obligations clearly identify the responsibility of the federal government to deal with the healthcare issues, educational issues and some other issues of Native American tribes," O'Halleran says.

The Indian Health Care Act gives tribal members access to care in rural areas and expands healthcare for Native American veterans. The National Indian Health Board has also urged congressional leaders to retain the IHCIA. The law currently has broad support in Congress.