Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Launches New Hearing Aid Program

TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker issued an executive order today, expanding the tribe’s hearing aid program for Cherokee citizens.

Cherokee Nation Chief Expands Hearing Aid Program.

Cherokee Nation Chief Expands Hearing Aid Program.

Cherokee Nation health services currently provides a limited number of hearing aids to Cherokee citizens and citizens  of other federally recognized tribes residing in the tribe’s 14-county northeast Oklahoma jurisdiction. Today’s order signed by Chief Baker broadly expands the hearing aid program, which is funded by the tribe’s gaming revenues.

“Since my first day in office, my administration has been committed to expanding health care services and filling unmet needs,” Baker said. “Providing Cherokees only one hearing aid when they need two is only a bandage and doesn’t do enough to improve the quality of life for our citizens. The previous policy was unacceptable in light of the strong growth our business operations have seen in recent years, and I believe our people deserve better. This order will dramatically improve the quality of life for Cherokee citizens all across our great nation.”

The new program will be funded under the Health Dividend Act of 2011, which mandates an additional 5 percent of tribal business profits be earmarked specifically for contract health services. Contract health services cover special surgeries and equipment, such as eyeglasses and dentures, which are not allowable under federal funds.

“These tribal dollars are helping to catch those Cherokee citizens who were previously falling through the cracks,” Baker said. “I proposed the Health Dividend Act when I was on the Tribal Council, and it was the first piece of legislation I signed as Chief. Improving health care for our citizens will always be my highest priority, and I’ll do everything in my power to make our nation healthier. I’m working to ensure that no Cherokee ever receives second-class care in our world-class health system.”

The expanded hearing aid program is the latest in a series of health care improvements. Other initiatives include $100 million in health care facility construction, a takeover of Claremore Indian Hospital’s contract health program and a 90-day prescription drug program.

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