CHEROKEE COUNTY, Oklahoma - The Cherokee Nation is encouraging its citizens to find health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The tribe provides free healthcare to all of its members but says they should still try to get health insurance.

The Cherokee Nation celebrated the building of a new 42,000 square foot building, the Cherokee Nation health clinic.

Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation, said, "It's going to double our capacity in this area, shorten the lines, and make healthcare better for our people."

The new and improved clinic in Jay is one of eight health centers and one hospital the Cherokee Nation used to keep its citizens healthy.

Connie Davis is the tribe's executive director of health services, "We want to meet the need of every Cherokee citizen in the 14 counties that we can and it takes money to do that."

One avenue to find that money is through the Affordable Care Act. The Cherokee Nation is asking its citizens who currently don't have insurance to go through the ACA and get health insurance.

Davis said half of the patients the Cherokee Nation sees do not have health insurance.

While the tribe provides free healthcare to its members, it bills the insurance company for those who do have health insurance. That money is then used to improve the tribe's healthcare system.

Davis said the Cherokee Nation spends millions of dollars contracting out for services it doesn't provide. That's $26 million a year for cardiovascular, orthopedics, or cancer treatment.

Another example, the Cherokee Nation spends more than $300,000 every year just transporting its patients from clinics like to hospitals in Tahlequah or Tulsa.

The Cherokee Nation said if its citizens have health insurance and the tribe can collect from the insurers a lot of that money will be freed up and its health department can offer those treatments itself instead of paying someone else to do it.

"We're still going to take care of them if they don't, but we can take care of more people and better services if we can bill for it," said Baker.

Cherokee citizens who need help signing up can go to any Cherokee clinic or hospital. Trained staff members can help you through the process.