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October 16, 2009
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Commits to Protecting Indian Health Service as Health Insurance Reform is Debated
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Commits to Protecting Indian Health Service as Health Insurance Reform is Debated

PALM SPRINGS, CA—October 14, 2009—In a letter to delegates to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 66th Annual Convention, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi wrote: “As we prepare the American Affordable Health Choices Act for consideration by the full House, we must ensure that the President’s promising of preserving an individual’s health care of choice includes the Indian health delivery system.”

In the letter, Pelosi also commended tribal leaders for “working closely with the committees and the Obama administration to ensure that the health delivery system that was guaranteed to American Indians and Alaska Natives through treaty rights is not inadvertently harmed.”

“For the Speaker of the House to recognize that Native people must have the choice to receive health care through the Indian health delivery system is a big win for Indian Country and the health of our people,” said NCAI President Joe A. Garcia. “I commend Speaker Pelosi for her commitment to the health and well-being of Native Americans. I am confident the House will follow the Speaker’s lead and ensure our concerns are considered as they debate this historic legislation.”

“We cannot ask Indian people to be penalized for choosing to use the Indian health care system,” said Pelosi. “The House bill will ensure that the exemption from the financial penalties is extended to federally recognized tribes and that tribally provided health care benefits are appropriately protected.”

Pelosi also said it is essential that the Congress focus on improving the health and wellness of Indian Country. “That is why health reform legislation must ensure that adequate funds are made available to tribes to stamp out preventable illness and conditions that are having a devastating impact in your communities, such as diabetes,” she said.

“While many elements of the health care reform bill are vital to Indian Country, Congress also recognizes the importance of passing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, and I pledge to continue working with you toward that goal.”

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