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Tribal Health and the Affordable Care Act

Summary: 
John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, highlights the numerous benefits that the Affordable Care Act has provided to Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations.

Recently, I had the privilege to speak about how the Affordable Care Act is having a positive impact in Indian Country as I joined other Administration officials in addressing the Executive Council Winter Session of the National Congress on American Indians in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Indian tribes, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations can now choose to purchase health insurance coverage for their employees through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program.

The FEHB program is ready to go now, and will bring its first tribal employees into coverage on May 1

Already, several Indian tribes have taken advantage of this option.  Once enrolled, their tribal employees will have the same choices and yearly options to change plans as Federal employees.

We’ve partnered with the National Finance Center to make sure all the logistics and the infrastructure are ready.  We’ve convened a monthly Tribal/Federal Technical Workgroup to make sure that the program is accessible. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services have supported us in this new relationship with Tribal Nations and assisted us with outreach. And working together, government-to-government, we have achieved the appropriate consultation between our nations.

We even set up a direct hotline, so that tribal HR professionals can call OPM and immediately speak to a real live person about this program. And you can learn more about these options at: www.opm.gov/tribalprograms

It is my intention to make this a long and a cooperative partnership. I look forward to that cooperation, and to knowing that we’ve helped more Americans access high-quality health insurance coverage – a goal that we can all be proud of.

I am reminded of the ancient oath taken by youths in Athens, upon becoming an adult. It is an oath that I believe we would do well to uphold even in these modern times:

“I will strive to leave my nation and world not only not less, but better, more beautiful, and more abundant than it was given to me.”

That is our challenge. Rising to meet it will be our joy.

John Berry is the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.