How Obamacare Will Cost Native American Tribes Millions of Dollars

Native American tribes are pushing back against a provision of Obamacare mandating that tribal governments provide health insurance to their employees. Tribal leaders say it’s a “misinterpretation” of the law that will cost millions of dollars.

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2009, lawmakers exempted Native Americans from the individual mandate, shielding them from having to pay a fine for not having insurance. Native Americans could, however, purchase health insurance on the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, and have access to substantial tax credits, driving down the cost of their plans.

Rebecca Bishop, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming, purchased a plan on the federal exchange costing $948 a month. According to an affidavit filed with the District Court in Wyoming, Bishop works as a swing shift manager at the tribe’s Cee Nu Ku cafe and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Bishop received a monthly subsidy of $815 and pays just $133 a month in premiums, with no co-pays or deductible, she said.