The population of American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the United States totals 5.2 million according to the Census Bureau. About 1 in 5 American Indians and Alaska Natives have health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, and many more are eligible for coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. Medicaid and CHIP can serve as a critical source of care for this community.
In 1976, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act amended the Social Security Act to permit Indian Health Service (IHS) and tribal health care facilities to be reimbursed by Medicaid (and Medicare) for services provided to American Indian and Alaska Natives. This change enabled many eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives to gain access to services covered under those programs. This was especially important to individuals residing in very remote and rural locations, who previously had to travel long distances – sometimes hundreds of miles – to see a Medicaid or Medicare provider located off reservation.
When eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives enroll in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), they are able to get the robust package of health benefits these programs provide. In turn, Indian Health Service facilities benefit when they get federal reimbursement for services delivered to Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries. This helps enrich the level of health services that can be provided to all patients. View the video narrated by actor, Wes Studi (Cherokee), to learn more about how Medicaid and CHIP can help American Indian and Alaska Native families as well as their communities.
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