Thanks to new HHS funding for outreach and enrollment, many more American Indian and Alaska Native children will be enrolled in their state’s Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Programs. This is welcome news to many Indian communities and families around the nation. The IHS estimates there are 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children who go without health insurance. The opportunity to cover more infants, children and adolescents and keep them covered with health insurance is now possible. Medicaid coverage carries with it specific requirements for early periodic screening diagnosis and treatment that requires oral health care, developmental assessment, and mental health services be covered. Here’s a link to the HHS press release announcing the new funding:
Indian Country continues to celebrate passage of the historic health insurance reform law, which included the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA). This law will improve the quality of health care and make it more accessible and affordable for the American people, including American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The new health insurance reform law builds on the health insurance system we have, and makes three key changes.
Here’s a recent speech by Secretary Sebelius that describes in more detail what is in the new law, what will help Americans immediately, and how the Department of Health and Human Services is quickly working to implement these reforms.
There are several provisions in the new health insurance reform law that will specifically benefit American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, Tribes, and our Indian health facilities. For example:
One other note – many have worried that health reform would mean that the Indian Health Service would go away and everyone would have an insurance card. That was a myth and it is wrong. The IHS is still here, and the passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act along with the health reform law reaffirms that IHS is here to stay. The new law permanently reauthorizes the IHS and it contains numerous provisions to modernize and update the IHS. Here’s a link to a recent document that summarizes many of these provisions. As you may know, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act contains a number of changes in law, some of which will require new policies and regulations, and also includes provisions that we may be able to implement now or that may require additional funding to implement. Just like the health insurance reform law, we want to implement it quickly, but it is not possible to do it all at once. The implementation process will need to occur over time.
We are getting many questions on what we plan to do to implement the numerous provisions in the health insurance reform law and the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. As you can imagine, implementation will be a complex undertaking. We are working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Indian Health Service is currently reviewing every provision in the new laws that relates to Indian Country and quickly assessing next steps and timelines for implementation. We will share this information as we move forward.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will be reaching out to provide you with more information about the new law and how it will impact Indian Country. We also want to develop ways to consult with Tribes on the implementation process over the coming weeks, months, and years. We will communicate directly to Tribes about the consultation process. You can also check the IHS website (http://www.ihs.gov/), and in particular, my Director’s Blog, for regular updates and information. You can also access the most recent information on health reform implementation in general at http://www.whitehouse.gov/health-care-meeting/reform-means-you and at http://healthreform.gov/.
We know that everyone is anxious for new information, and we will work quickly and carefully to ensure you have clear, accurate information. Please check back here for frequent updates.
I recently traveled to Phoenix AZ to meet with the Tribes served by the Phoenix IHS Area as a part of my goal to hold an in-person consultation session in all 12 IHS Areas over the next 3-4 months. The Tribes presented their priority issues and made recommendations for how to improve our Tribal consultation process at the national, Area and local levels. Common priority issues included the need for more funding, especially in the Contract Health Services Program, and better consultation and communication and the Area and local levels. Here is a picture from the meeting:
I recently traveled to Atlanta GA to meet with the Tribes served by the Nashville IHS Area as a part of my goal to hold an in-person consultation session in all 12 IHS Areas over the next 3-4 months. The Tribes presented their priority issues and made recommendations for how to improve our Tribal consultation process at the national, Area and local levels. Common priority issues included the need for more funding, especially in the Contract Health Services Program, and the importance of understanding that “one size doesn’t fit all” when understanding the needs of the Tribes of the Area. Here is a picture from the meeting:
I attended the National Combined Councils Meeting in Phoenix AZ recently. This meeting serves as an annual venue for our administrative and clinical leadership to meet together and discuss common issues. The opening session included presentations by me, the Surgeon General and a representative from the Division of Administration in the Department of Health and Human Services. I met with all the Councils during the meeting. It was great to be at the meeting and be able to announce passage of the health reform legislation and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act – the audience erupted in applause! We also toured the Phoenix Indian Medical Center and the Fort McDowell Yavapai nation Health Center. Here are some pictures:
On the podium with the Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin
Phoenix Indian Medical Center Tour
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Health Center Tour