By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
In a surprising turn of events, House Republicans cancelled a vote on Friday, March 24 on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), President Trump’s replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. Many in Indian Country were happy with the lack of a vote and the fact that ACA was not repealed.
In a letter to Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) on Friday, Principal Chief Patrick Lambert wrote, “I personally want to thank you for your courageous stand to protect Indian healthcare. As you know, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and every federally recognized tribe has made great strides to improve the health and well-being of our citizenry. These important pieces of federal assistance aid greatly in allowing us to accomplish that aim. As the current replacement bill stands, it will adversely affect our Tribe. Your principled stand to represent the Cherokee people is something that this Tribe and I will never forget. Thank you.”
Rep. Meadows chairs the House Freedom Caucus which fought the AHCA. Following the vote cancellation on Friday, he released the following the statement, “I promised the people of North Carolina’s 11th District that I would fight for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a replacement with a market-driven approach that brings down costs and provides more choices for the American people. I remain wholeheartedly committed to following through on this promise. I know President Trump is committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a system that works for American families, and I look forward to working with him to do just that.”
President Trump took to his Twitter page on Saturday, March 25 and wrote, “Obamacare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”
In a joint letter with Jacqueline Pata, National Congress of American Indians executive director, on Thursday, March 23, Vinton Hawley, National Indian Health Board chairman, addressed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc). “I write to express concerns about the American Health Care Act (AHCA) (H.R. 1628) and request that the legislation be amended to take into account concerns of American Indians and Alaska Natives and to ensure that the federal government continue to live up to the federal trust responsibility to provide health care for tribal communities. We recommend that the legislation preserve Medicaid expansion for all Americans and especially for individuals receiving Medicaid through and Indian Health Service or tribally-operated health facility, clarify that American Indians/Alaska Natives should not be subject to state-imposed work requirements under the Medicaid program, and continue the cost-sharing protections for American Indians/Alaska Natives contained in Section 1402(d) of the Affordable Care Act.”
Earlier that day, the National Indian Health Board released a “Health Care Reform Reference Guide” which compared the American Health Care Act with the current Affordable Care Act. Either way, in both pieces of legislation, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act would remain fully intact.
In its examination of the AHCA, the Board stated, “American Indians and Alaska Natives are subject to state income and eligibility determinations for Medicaid. Therefore, IHS and tribal health program funding will be significantly impacted if states are forced to reduce eligibility or control expenditures to remain within the cap….the overall decrease in Medicaid funding could have a significant impact on the IHS and tribal health programs by forcing states to choose between allocating additional state funding to maintain coverage, or reduce eligibility, decrease covered services in future years.”
One Congressman not pleased with the result was Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. “I am extremely disappointed that we missed this opportunity to dramatically improve healthcare for millions of Americans. I was very much prepared to vote in favor of this measure, because I know Americans, especially Oklahomans, deserve better healthcare. Under this system, they had that opportunity.”