Health Care Reform and Native Americans

Since the passage and signing of the national health care reform bill (Public Law No. 111-148) which also contained the long-awaited reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, supporters and opponents remain deeply divided.  A new poll has the country just a tad bit more in favor of the bill than against it.  Indian Country seems to be pretty happy with the bill and the reauthorization of the IHCIA in particular.  The President’s statement is here.  The National Indian Health Board’s statement is here.

Attorney General Rob McKenna

On the other hand, a number of Republican state attorneys have already filed (or will be filing) lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the bill.  One of those is our Attorney General, Rob McKenna.  McKenna has laid out his reasons here.  He is opposed by his and our Governor, Christine Gregoire whose arguments are here.  The first question is whether McKenna’s lawsuit is good for Native Americans in Washington State?  The second question is, no matter whether you agree or disagree with him, will this issue make you more likely to vote in the fall?  Access to quality, affordable health care seems to us like a basic treaty (and human) right.

We think there is a lot of potential and uncertainty regarding the new law.  Will the new law make access to good health care more available to urban Natives?  How much impact will the increase in Medicaid services impact Indians?  Will the IHS offer more services, such as long term care?  Will more Natives have the opportunity to go to college, nursing school, and medical schools?  We look forward to the debate and implementation of the bill in the next few months and beyond.  We hope you agree with us that health care is important and that no matter which side you fall on, you exercise your voice and vote this year.  As President Obama said this week, “elections matter”, and that’s why the Democrats had the votes to pass health care reform. 

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