Oklahoma Tribes Unsure About Future Of Indian Health Care

Wednesday, March 15th 2017, 11:03 pm
By: News On 6

Native American tribes are wondering what will happen to their health care if proposed changes to Obamacare by Republicans go through.

The proposed health care plan does not mention Indian health care. Several tribes said that could be good or bad for them.

Cherokee member Michelle Scarborough and her family all use Indian Health Services.

"I come in myself and bring my children there, and my grandchildren to receive health care from Claremore Indian Health Service," she said.

Back in 2010, President Barack Obama made the Indian Health Care Improvement Act permanent, making health care services for American Indians and Alaskan Natives guaranteed.

Tribes were worried Republicans might repeal that law along with the Affordable Care Act.

"If this bill is repealed, it's going to be devastating for Indian Country," said Robyn Sunday-Allen with the OKC Indian Clinic.

The Republican plan does not repeal Indian health care, but tribes say it's still too soon to feel relief.

Scarborough said, "I should not have to worry about if I'm going to be seen, or if there's going to be care available for me, or my family, my granddaughter. I feel like all Indians feel the same way."

Even though the Indian Health Care Improvement Act would stay intact in the proposed plan, Medicaid would suffer budget cuts - and those funds are used to reimburse many Indian Health Services resources.

The National Indian Health Board released a statement last week, saying in part,

"Due to the vital role the Medicaid program plays in fulfilling the federal trust responsibility, NIHB is extremely concerned about the changes the bill enacts to Medicaid Expansion."

"I want them to go and fight for every bit of it, and not let up - and demand that we have health care," Scarborough said.

Earlier this week, Congressman Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, introduced another bill that would protect the Indian Health Care Improvement Act no matter what happens.

It's now going through House committees.