Health Care Bill Narrows "Native" Designation

May 15, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Some Native Americans could be forced to pay a fine or buy their own health insurance under changes enacted in the federal health care overhaul.

The overhaul takes a narrow view of who is considered American Indian and can avoid the $695 tax penalty. The definition is limited to people who can prove they belong to one of about 560 tribes recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In Oklahoma, Melanie Fourkiller serves as policy adviser for the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority. She says the situation is confusing and that members of her own family will be affected.

Oklahoma's tribal leaders are working with the federal government to restore the definition of Native American to the one used by the Indian Health Service for decades.