baby - native americanOver the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing a series on the healthcare matrix for American Indians. I’ll be covering the basics of the Indian Health Service, how Medicaid and Medicare interface with Native Americans, as well as some of the basics of the Affordable Care Act as it relates to American Indians. Let’s start with the Indian Health Service.

The Indian Health Service (within HHS) is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians. Provision of health services to members of federally-recognized tribes grew out of the special government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. This relationship was established in 1787 under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and has been fortified by numerous treaties, laws, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. The IHS is a principal federal health care provider and health advocate for Indian people and its goal is to raise their health status to the highest possible level.

The IHS provides a health service delivery system for about 65% of the 3.4 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the US. The Indian Health Service is divided into 12- three of which are in Arizona: Navajo, Phoenix, and Tucson. Folks can search for the nearest IHS Health Facility using the Find Health Care website or simply download a complete listing of IHS Facilities.

Members of 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and their descendants are eligible for services provided by the Indian Health Service (without regard to income). Eligibility is based on whether or not an individual is enrolled in a Federally recognized tribe. This FAQ page provides clarification for gray-area issues.

Next week I’ll cover the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (Public Law 93-638) which has linkages to the IHS. In following weeks, I’ll cover Medicaid, Medicare, and the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act.