This blog written by HANM staff member Colin Baillio originally appeared on the Health Action New Mexico website.
In collaboration with the National Indian Council on Aging and the Diverse Elders Coalition, Health Action New Mexico has released a resource to help explain how the Affordable Care Act affects Native Americans between the ages 50 and 64. “There is still a great deal of work to be done to raise awareness among tribal communities and urban Indians about new coverage options available through the new health reform law,” said Barbara Webber, Executive Director of Health Action NM. “Our hope is that this fact sheet will be helpful for Native Americans who need health services that can’t be provided by the Indian Health Service.”
Nationally, about one of three Native Americans and Alaskan Indians lack health coverage, according to a 2013 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The only other recourse is to use the Indian Health Service (IHS), which provides primary care for members of Federally Recognized Tribes. But with severely limited capacity for specialty services and consistent underfunding from the federal government, IHS is often unable to meet the health care needs of the population it serves. Many tribal members are acutely aware of the link between the lack of access to care and the lower-than-average life expectancy among Native American populations.
New coverage expansions provide benefits for tribal communities and urban Indians that can extend crucial health care services to populations in need. The Medicaid Expansion provides free health coverage to Americans making under $15,655 per year ($1,305 per month) as an individual. The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange is a marketplace where those making above that amount can shop for a private health coverage plan, with financial assistance available to help make coverage affordable. Native Americans are eligible for premium discounts if they make below about $46,680 per year as individuals ($3,890 per month) and face no out-of-pocket costs if, as an individual, they make below $35,310 per year ($2,943 per month).
Native Americans ages 50-64 stand to gain from these new benefits, especially if they live with chronic conditions that require routine treatment. Health Action NM’s new resource acknowledges that being able to manage a condition with a doctor is crucial to the health of older adults, which is why IHS and health coverage can lead to a synergy between primary and specialty care providers. “We made sure to explain how new coverage options can be used in addition to IHS services,” according to Barbara Webber.
With the release of this fact sheet, Health Action NM seeks to make this information available in its most accessible form. “We held an incredible group discussion with members of tribes throughout the state to ensure that this fact sheet is useful for Native Americans in New Mexico,” said Joe Martinez, Outreach Coordinator for Health Action NM. “That discussion will be the basis for future collaborations with Native Americans who want to see their communities thrive.”
Click here to view the fact sheet.
Please contact Health Action NM if you would like copies of the fact sheet for your community:
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.