30 Jul 2021
Rodney M. Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, said American Indians depend on Medicaid for affordable health care and will finally benefit from the expansion of Medicaid in South Dakota. In this statement from Dakotans for Health, President Bordeaux explains how the expansion of Medicaid and Medicaid has helped Native American communities, criticizes the South Dakota legislature for hampering the expansion of Medicaid, expresses support for the petition of Dakotans for Health to put the Medicaid expansion on the 2022 ballot, and approve the new Medicaid Saves Lives law currently pending in Congress.
As the President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, I witness firsthand the profound health issues facing our people, a crisis facing the Indian country across the country. Nationally, compared to white adults, American Indian adults are almost three times more likely to be uninsured. In South Dakota, the disparity is even greater. At the same time, members of our communities are also much more likely to experience serious health problems such as obesity, physical disability or substance use disorder, which makes access to health care better. all the more critical health.
While the Indian Health Service (IHS) plays a central role in the American Indian health system, millions of us are enrolled in Medicaid, which is celebrating its 56th anniversary this month. Medicaid provides health insurance to more than 80 million Americans nationwide, including more than a quarter of non-elderly American Indian adults and half of our children. From 2013 to 2018, the uninsured rate among American Indians fell from 28% to 20%, thanks to increased access to health insurance created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including a major expansion of Medicaid.
Sadly, thousands of indigenous people in South Dakota and 11 other states are denied this access to vital health care due to political games that have nothing to do with what is best for our health. In those 12 states, which have failed to expand Medicaid due to partisan opposition to the ACA, millions of Americans – 16,000 South Dakotas among them – are trapped in a “coverage gap.” where they can’t afford private coverage, but they don’t qualify for Medicaid.
In South Dakota, American Indian groups like the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association are helping lead the fight for a voting measure to expand Medicaid in our state, which would provide coverage to 42 500 additional South Dakotans, including thousands of American Indians. Sadly, the state legislature continues to try to put additional obstacles in our way, including seeking to increase the percentage of votes needed for a successful vote from 50% to 60%. But we are determined to succeed in this fight, starting by collecting enough signatures to get Medicaid extension on the ballot, because the health of our families and communities is at stake.
Medicaid is a lifeline for the Indian country, plain and simple.
While we are entitled to care from IHS or tribal facilities, whether we are insured or not, proposals to expand access to Medicaid would benefit our communities in several ways. First, having health insurance from another source makes it easier for our staff to access care from other providers when IHS facilities are geographically remote or overcapacity. Second, having more Medicaid insured patients would help increase reimbursements to IHS clinics, which are chronically underfunded and depend on this funding to provide care to those they serve.
We saw the benefits of expanding access to Medicaid for Native American communities when Montana approved its own expansion in 2016. In two years, more than 15,000 newly eligible tribal members signed up for Medicaid. Tribal and IHS-managed facilities on the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana received an additional $ 13.6 million in federal reimbursements during that time, helping them provide care to thousands more people.
As we fight to finally win the expansion of Medicaid in South Dakota, Congress also has an important role to play in states that continue to refuse to extend coverage to families, seniors and veterans. in their states. The Medicaid Save Lives Act, which was recently introduced in the House and Senate, would help people in states that have not implemented the expansion of Medicaid in the past decade to access health care.
The Medicaid Saves Lives Act would help South Dakotas by creating a federal program for people currently in the “coverage gap” that would provide health care coverage for essential ACA health benefits, the costs of prescription drugs, maternal and newborn care, and other essential health services. . The bill also provides incentives for any recalcitrant states that decide to expand Medicaid, building on the incentives included in the US bailout passed earlier this year.
We will continue our efforts to ensure that our neighbors have access to the care they need, no matter who they are, what they look like or how much money they have. And we expect Congress to do everything in its power to expand Medicaid in recalcitrant states, including South Dakota. It begins with the passage of the Medicaid Saves Lives Act. The Indian country cannot afford to wait.
President Rodney M. Bordeaux is currently serving his fourth term as head of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. He simultaneously holds leadership positions with the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board, the National Congress of American Indian and Dakotans for Health. Mr. Bordeaux holds a Bachelor of Arts from Augustana College and a Master of Arts from Oglala Lakota College.