Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Health Care Act is expected to bring in much needed dollars to the chronically underfunded Indian Health Service or IHS. But tribal health experts say the main game changer in Indian country will be new health insurance exchanges. For the first time ever, the IHS, a system traditionally open only to Native Americans, will be competing for non-Indian patients in order to survive. KUNM’s Tristan Ahtone reports.
Obama’s proposed budget for Indian Health Services is up from FY 2012 by $124 million.. The White House’s focus on increased funding to IHS programs, it’s now up to congress to make a decision on the President’s budget.
Around 25-thousand Native Americans in New Mexico will become eligible for Medicaid when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect next year. The change translates to more money for the Indian Health Service. But as KUNM’s Poverty and Public Health Reporter Tristan Ahtone explains: in Albuquerque, Medicaid expansion will also force Native health providers to deal with something they’ve never faced before: competition from non-tribal health programs.
With the possibility of sequestration two weeks away, the Indian Health Services says they could be facing large cuts to program funding. Those cuts could be disastrous for the Indian Health Service which is already dealing with a massively underfunded budget.