It turns out that there is a glitch in the language of the Affordable Care Act that could potentially prevent many Alaska Natives and American Indians from receiving health benefits they may be eligible for. Senators Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Al Franken of Minnesota have introduced legislation to clarify exactly who qualifies as an “Indian” under the Affordable Care Act. As it currently stands, the law includes several different definitions of Native American, setting the stage for confusion about eligibility for benefits and requirements for coverage.
The bill introduced by the five Democratic Senators would change the definition of Indian to include Alaska Natives, who are already eligible to receive free health care under current law. HHS has issued a hardship waiver to help streamline the definition of Indian, but the lawmakers said a permanent fix is still needed.