Protecting and Improving Native American Health Care

Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R – Oklahoma)

Guest Commentary

Published March 14, 2017

The 115th Congress made a promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, at the start of this new session of Congress.  It isn’t common knowledge to many people outside of Indian Country, but the last reauthorization of the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act (IHCIA), which authorizes and made reforms to the Indian Health Service (IHS), was included in Obamacare.

When Obamacare was passed in 2010, Democrats tacked the IHCIA on to the 20,000 page law as a way to incentivize Members of Congress who have Native American tribes in their district to vote for it.  People familiar with IHS and the IHCIA have concerns that the IHCIA will be repealed along with Obamacare.  As a member of the Cherokee Nation and one that sits on the committee of jurisdiction to repeal and replace Obamacare, it’s my job to alleviate those concerns.

Due to a Senate provision called the Byrd Rule, the IHCIA cannot be repealed through the budget reconciliation process, which is the vehicle Congress is using to repeal and replace Obamacare.  The House has already passed the Budget for FY17 which allows for the reconciliation process to begin.  Now, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee will get to work drafting legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.

But we have to do more than just reassure people that IHCIA can’t be repealed in reconciliation.  We need to continue to improve it.  This Congress, one of my priorities is to improve Indian health care.  I was recently selected to serve on the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the IHS.  I’ve been working closely with the Chairman of the Committee Greg Walden, who asked me to take the lead on reforming Indian health care.

The 115th Congress has presented us with an enormous task to repeal and replace Obamacare, but yet an opportunity to improve the quality of health care for all Americans.  I plan to host roundtables and listening sessions with Native American tribes from not only Oklahoma, but all over the country.  I’m proud to be a voice for the great state of Oklahoma in Congress and I will continue to work on behalf of Oklahomans, especially when it comes to the quality of health care services.

Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) is one of two American Indians in the 115th Congress. He is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

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