How the U.S. Health Care Law affects American Indians

The U.S. health care law known as the Affordable Care Act has been in the headlines for several months, but there still are many questions on how this law affects American Indians.

The new law is changing the way many people get health care coverage. It expands access to health insurance to more people and it aims to make it more affordable for many. The law also works to help American Indians get the care they need for their diverse health care needs.

Members of an American Indian tribe who receive services at Indian health clinics, can enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace monthly and are not subject to enrollment deadlines.  

Additional changes for American Indians include having more choices in health care decisions for you and your family. As always, you can use services offered through the Indian Health Service (IHS), tribally-operated health systems and Urban Indian Health facilities, commonly referred to as the ITU. You also may be eligible to sign up for coverage through government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). You also can purchase your own private health coverage.  By having health coverage, American Indians have greater access to services that may not be provided by the ITU, and tribal communities may benefit through increased resources.

Federal financial assistance also may be available to help you pay your health insurance premium when you buy coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace. The amount of assistance you receive will depend on your household income.

You may have heard that the Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have a certain minimum level of health coverage or face a penalty. If you are eligible to receive services through an Indian Health Services facility, this requirement may not apply to you. You would not be fined for not having coverage.

Other Benefits of the Affordable Care Act:

-        Your children under age 19 can get coverage now, even if they have a medical condition. Everyone can get insurance that covers a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes, and you will not pay more because of your condition.

-        Your young adult children can now stay on your insurance coverage until they are 26, and they do not have to live with you or be a tax dependent.

-        New health care benefit plans will cover key health services. These include maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, hospital care and most preventive services like mammograms and immunizations.

-        You do not have to worry about running out of coverage for the benefits you need. The health care law removes dollar limits on many essential health services.

-        Even if you need ongoing and complex medical care, your insurance cannot be cancelled. Your health care insurance can be cancelled only in cases of fraud or if you do not pay your premiums.

-        The law funds new programs to increase health care workers’ awareness of diverse health care needs and to train more doctors, nurses and other medical professionals representing more minority groups.

For more information about health insurance and the new health care law, visit or call 855-835-9853.  

Article contributed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma.