In Letter to Speaker Ryan, Ranking Members Grijalva, Pallone Highlight Indian Country Impacts of Repealing Affordable Care Act

Washington, D.C. – In a previously unreleased Jan. 24 letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) highlight the damage to Indian Country should Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and urge the majority to reconsider its plan to eliminate the law.

The letter, which chronicles the full range of funding and services at risk, is available at http://bit.ly/2j9wdr7. The Indian Health Service, which treats patients living on tribal land, serves an estimated 2.2 million Americans.

“Repealing the ACA could set many American’s back years, but it could set the First Americans back decades, if not return them to the healthcare dark ages,” the two Ranking Members wrote.  “This vulnerable population – already the victim of historic, shameful mistreatment by the United States government – deserves better. We should be taking further steps forward toward improving the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives, rather than taking a giant leap back by repealing the Affordable Care Act.”

The letter highlights the many ways in which health care for Native American and Alaska Native populations has been improved by the ACA, particularly because the law reauthorized the dormant Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) and increased funding and grant authority for a wide range of chronically underfunded services.

Grijalva has been leading the fight in Congress to protect Native health care from Republican attacks. As USA Today wrote on Jan. 24:

If the law is scrapped along with the ACA, “we’ll go back to where we were but we’ll be struggling year to year trying to cobble together some Indian health services budget,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.

“I don’t want Republican leadership down the road saying, ‘Oh, it was an unintended consequence, we’ll deal with it down the road in replacement,’” he added. Grijalva has three tribes in his district.

“We’re still learning just how many Americans would be hurt, and in how many ways, if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Grijalva said today. “Wiping out years of progress in Indian Country, where our public health needs are greatest, is not an acceptable use of government authority. This crusade to score political points no matter the human collateral damage will end badly for Republicans – and for the American people they’re targeting.”

“Native Americans have better health coverage and health care today thanks to the Affordable Care Act,” Pallone said.  “The Affordable Care Act has expanded and protected health coverage for millions of Americans, and Republicans should not jeopardize these significant gains, including the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, by repealing the law.” 

Republican leaders have so far indicated no qualms about wiping out the IHCIA despite its completely nonpartisan nature and the fact that it was originally passed in 1976, long before President Obama took office.

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