The Great Plains Navigator Program aims to increase knowledge of how insurance can be beneficial to our relatives and provides technical assistance on how to utilize the Health Insurance Exchange program (also known as Obamacare). The Navigator program assists uninsured American Indians living in He Sapa Catchment counties and Rapid City area in accessing healthcare coverage.
The outreach area includes Oglala, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River Sioux tribal communities. Certified Navigators conduct public education activities to raise awareness about coverage, provide 1:1 assistance to consumers in facilitating the selection of a coverage plan, and provide information to our relatives that will help them access care.
Why Should American Indians Acquire Health Coverage
Medicaid or Medicare coverage or private health insurance, or other third-party health coverage can make things a lot easier for Native American people using the Indian Health Service or a tribally managed healthcare facility.
Native American people believe that the federal government is responsible for their healthcare coverage. They are right. The United States has a trust and treaty responsibility to provide health services to Native American people. Unfortunately, the federal government has never lived up to its end of the bargain and consistently underfunds the Indian Health Service.
Across Indian Country, each Indian Health Service and tribally managed healthcare program is allotted funding from Congress to pay for referrals to outside providers through a program called Purchased and Referred Care (PRC). Like other parts of the Indian Health Service PRC programs are underfunded but are still expected to meet the needs of all patients.
When PRC funding is exhausted before the end of the fiscal year, many tribal citizens are left without access to the care they need, or if they do not have third-party coverage, they can end up with costly bills that can adversely impact their credit or worse.
While Native American people cannot be charged or refused service at any Indian Health Service or a tribally managed healthcare facility, there is a real risk of funding not being available if a patient needs to be referred out for care.
So, what are the benefits of enrolling in Medicaid, Medicare, or private health insurance?
You no longer wait to see if PRC approves your referral.
The PRC process faces many challenges, including underfunding, that have left many of our relatives in debt or lacking care. Enrolling with Medicaid, Medicare, or private health insurance means you need not rely on PRC. When you are referred out for care with private insurance or Medicaid or Medicare coverage, you have peace of mind knowing you are covered.
You can help generate additional resources for your local IHS or tribally run clinic.
Medicaid, Medicare, and private health insurance coverage can help your local tribally run clinic make up for shortfalls in funding. Each time you visit your facility and are covered, your provider can bill Medicaid, Medicare, or your private insurer for services. This revenue helps your local healthcare facility expand services and preserve PRC dollars for our relatives who have yet to acquire coverage.
According to South Dakotans for Healthcare, in states where Medicaid expansion has occurred, tribally managed clinics have increased third-party revenue and, as a result, experience a greater capacity to expand services. For example, in Montana, from 2016 to 2018, Medicaid expansion enrolled 15,288 tribal members generating as much as $174,400,000 in additional healthcare spending. For instance, on the Blackfeet Reservation, tribal and IHS-run facilities saw an additional $13.6 million for services reimbursed by the federal government.
It is highly affordable and accessible.
Most tribal citizens can receive third-party coverage for no or minimal out-of-pocket costs. The federal government’s healthcare exchange program (formally Obamacare) makes third-party insurance extremely affordable. The Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board has its own health insurance navigator program that can help walk you through the sign-up process that usually only takes a few minutes of your time.
- Janelle Cantrell
- Travis Johnson
Health Insurance Exchange Navigator