Why Native Americans in Oklahoma Like the Affordable Care Act

  • Joe Wertz

The first version of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act was passed by Congress in 1976.

The act addressed health care for Native Americans, whose health status lagged behind the general population’s. The measure provided funding to recruit, train and retain doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical professionals in tribal areas.

The act has been reauthorized four times, and amended along the way. But the Affordable Care Act made the measure permanent.

For Oklahoma tribes, this means expanded coverage, more services and more funding opportunities, KOSU’s Quinton Chandler reports.

Making the temporary measure permanent means Oklahoma tribes can apply for more grants, Kevin Meeks with the Oklahoma City Indian Health Services tells KOSU. New health facilities will help ease overcrowding, especially in Oklahoma City, which has a single Indian health clinic, Meeks tells the station.

David Touhty, chief development officer with the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, says the newly permanent provisions will help with preventative care:

“Indians are five times more likely to die from alcoholism, even twice as likely to die from diabetes complications and American Indian youth are twice as likely to commit suicide,” he tells KOSU.