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May 15, 2013

Health care law changes could affect Okla. tribes



“It is a potential problem,” Grim said.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, said he was aware of the concerns.

“This could lead to some tribal citizens being required to purchase insurance or face penalties even though they are covered by IHS,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press. Cole is one of two federal legislators who are members of a federally recognized tribe. He would not say whether he would sponsor a bill to address the issue.

Mickey Peercy, executive director of health for the Choctaw Nation, said the solution involves making the new health care law’s definition of American Indian consistent.

“They’re messing with the definition of who’s an Indian,” Peercy said. “It needs to stay what it is.”

Peercy said the Choctaw Nation, which serves about 50,000 people with a hospital and outpatient clinics in southeastern Oklahoma, will be able to adapt to the ACA’s provisions.

“We can bend and roll with the Affordable Care Act,” he said. But the changes could be costly for non-tribal patients who have been receiving tribal health care services.

“It negatively impacts lots and lots of folks with uncompensated care,” he said.

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