By Vince Devlin, of the Missoulian:
POLSON – You can look at the potential questions and problems facing many Indian people across the nation when it comes to the Affordable Health Care Act, and quickly check off all the ones that don’t apply on the Flathead Reservation.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai people are a federally recognized tribe, so no problem there. Members can be enrolled in the tribe at birth, so children’s standing isn’t in question like it is for members of some tribes. There is no reservation residency requirement like ones that are posing problems for others.
When you’re done, Kevin Howlett says, just understand: The Affordable Health Care Act will still present issues locally, for many people of Indian descent.
Howlett, director of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health Department, stresses that everyone currently eligible for tribal health care will continue to be eligible.
But those who aren’t enrolled members may be subject to tax liability if they don’t purchase insurance for coverage they already qualify for.
“I anticipate problems, not for tribal members who are being exempted, but I do think there will be issues for descendants who can and do receive health care from us,” Howlett says.
The law, as written, exempts enrolled tribal members from having to purchase health insurance.
“We have a lot of people who are not enrolled, for whatever reason,” Howlett says. “It’s really unclear” how the new law will affect them.
“We do know they’ll come to the tribes asking for answers,” Howlett says. “But we don’t have them.”