Thousands of Alaska Natives will miss out on benefits they qualify for under the Affordable Care Act if the definition of Alaska Native under the law isn’t changed.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are exempt from the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty.
They also qualify for additional help paying for out of pocket expenses in some cases and can purchase or drop coverage on a month to month basis.
Valerie Davidson, with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, estimates the law’s definition excludes about 14,000 Alaska Natives because it says they have to be enrolled in a tribe or belong to a Native corporation.
“In some tribes, you’re not eligible for tribal enrollment unless you’re 18,” Davidson said. “So that’s a problem for children.”
“Other tribes have residency requirements, so you may not be eligible to enroll unless you live in that community.”
Davidson is working with Senator Mark Begich’s office to make the definition much broader in the law, to include all Alaska Natives. Begich has introduced a bill that makes the change and he’s looking for larger legislation to attach it to. He says he’s confident there’s enough support in Congress to pass it.
“It’s not reopening the whole debate over Affordable Health Care Act and I think a lot of people recognize that,” Begich said. “And as you know there are over 4 million American Indians, Alaska Natives throughout the country so I think there’s a lot of interest to just resolve this and kind of move on.”
Begich says the Obama Administration knows the definition is a problem and they’re highly motivated to get it fixed.
Alaska Natives have until December 2014 to apply for an exemption from the law’s individual mandate. It will be a paper application.
- These are the days when a president turns to thoughts of legacy. As the months tick down on this Administration, President Obama has created a marine national monument off new England and last month vastly expanded one near Hawaii. Alaska interest groups are working to get his attention, too. Some want him to take bold action in the 49th State before he leaves office, and others are urging him to resist those calls.
- Homer Electric Association held an informational meeting on September 28 to answer questions about the upcoming vote on deregulation. The meeting, which was held at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, attracted more than 100 people. The overwhelming majority were HEA customers who expressed concerns about the consequences of deregulation.
- Bob Banghart is developing the musical score for the upcoming stage adaptation at Arena Stage in Washington D.C.
- The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, were met by a large crowd, music and dancing in Carcross this week. They event was part of a larger tour around the Yukon after traveling through British Columbia. The visit focused on First Nations issues and culture.