Federal sequestration cut back on funds to the Indian Health Service, and Oregon suffered a $15 million loss. As a result, many tribal health clinics were forced to reduce their service hours, employees and non-essential care, Jim Roberts of the Northwest-Portland Area Indian Health Board told The Lund Report.
“For some of our tribes … you don’t receive care unless you have a life or limb test of services,” Roberts said.
To expand access to private health insurers, many Indian health providers are looking to Cover Oregon, the state’s marketplace for health insurance, created through the Affordable Care Act.
American Indians are the largest group per capita in Oregon to be uninsured, at 28 percent, The Lund Report states. But they stand to greatly benefit from the Affordable Care Act. Next year, 84 percent of Oregon’s 110,000 American Indians will either qualify for the Oregon Health Plan expansion or subsidies to purchase private insurance through Cover Oregon, if their employers don’t offer them coverage, Roberts told The Lund Report.
So far Cover Oregon has provided $280,000 to the state’s nine tribes to pay administrative staff to promote awareness of the health exchange and the expanded coverage options.
Roberts’ goal is for all Indian healthcare providers to be accepted by all health plans through Cover Oregon to ensure access to Indians and a revenue source for their providers.
“Our Indian people are going to want to continue to see their tribal providers as their primary health providers,” Roberts said.