Monday March 24 was the National Tribal Day of Action for Affordable Care Act (ACA) Enrollment. AFN joins President Obama in wanting to ensure that every Alaska Native has the information they need to take advantage of new health care options available under the health care law. This is a wonderful opportunity to greatly enhance health care for you and your family by getting covered with quality, reliable and affordable health care insurance. It’s just a phone call or mouse click away!
While Alaska Native and American Indian people are exempt from the requirement to purchase insurance, you must file for the exemption to avoid tax penalties. You can do this any time before December 31, 2014. If you do not file for an exemption or buy insurance, you will be taxed for not enrolling in an insurance plan.
Alaska Natives may file for an exemption if you can show evidence of:
- Enrollment in a federally recognized Tribe,
- Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) shareholder status (village or regional) or
- Eligibility to receive services from an Indian Health Service (IHS) facility/Tribal health care provider
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium urges all Alaska Natives to file for an exemption whether or not you have insurance now or plan to enroll in a plan under ACA. That’s because the so-called Indian Exemption is a lifetime exemption. If you ever lose your insurance you would be protected from paying a penalty tax because you would have a lifetime exemption.
Alaska Natives and American Indians are also exempt from the just-passed March 31st national enrollment deadline. You can enroll at any time. We urge you to find out more sooner than later. If you are under a certain income level, you might qualify to pay reduced or no costs for a private health care policy, including low or zero out-of-pocket costs.
Many Alaska Natives currently use an Indian Health Service (IHS) or tribal health facility and that is not changing. But private health insurance offers new protections. Taking advantage of the new health insurance options provided by the Affordable Care Act can give American Indian and Alaska Native families the peace of mind of knowing they have comprehensive health insurance, even outside of the IHS system.
It’s important to note that IHS is not health insurance. The ACA coverage IS. IHS doesn’t always provide services we need or pay out of pocket health expenditures. It does not necessarily travel with you. The ACA insurance covers you wherever you are.
Many American Indians and Alaska Natives who have signed up for health insurance coverage report that they were surprised at just how affordable it can be to get covered. Many are eligible for assistance to lower or even eliminate their monthly insurance premiums. And, if you’re a member of a federally recognized Tribe and you choose to buy a private health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may not have to pay any out-of-pocket costs like co-pays or deductibles. Many Native families are also finding that they are now eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Overall, this can add up to more reliable and more comprehensive health care at little to no cost.
The best way to review your options is to go to HealthCare.gov. You can also visit your local IHS or tribal clinic, or you can call 1-800-318-2596.