Columbus Day for the Conquered: Indian Country Loves Obamacare

Columbus Day for the Conquered: Indian Country Loves Obamacare:
You know, when people aren't dicks about the Affordable Care Act, when they turn off Fox "news" and stop listening to the idiots and fucknuts about it, they learn, pretty quickly, that for the vast majority of people affected by it, it's pretty damn cool. Like out in Indian Country. On the rez, Obamacare is being embraced as offering Native Americans a path to truly decent health care.

As Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Health and Human Services Director Kevin Howlett explains, the ACA goes way beyond what was available for Indians: "[T]he Indian Health Services has been historically under funded and the result is needed medical care is often not available because individual Indians do not have any other coverage." (Fun fact: The IHS exists by treaty as a part of the shit that the nation is supposed to provide Indians in exchange for, you know, ripping their land away from them.)

You got that? The government program meant to assist Indians can't do its job in good times. Now, the vicious, nihilistic sequester cuts have fucked over the IHS even further: "It stands to lose about $228 million in 2013 from automatic sequester cuts alone, out of a $4 billion budget. That will mean 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 800,000 fewer outpatient visits every year." So, yeah, Obamacare might actually fill in where Washington, DC has left Indians out to die in the sun. When the insurance part kick into effect in 2014, many Indians will be able to afford to seek medical care outside of the IHS.

The ACA already has made life better for American Indians: "It permanently reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the cornerstone for the provision of health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives." As a result, if the ACA were defunded, it "would wipe out most  the Indian Health Service budget," which, insurance or not, will still be a huge part of the health care for hundreds of thousands of people. (For big fun, read Fox "news" on how "unfair" it is that Indians will be exempt from the individual mandate because of the aforementioned treaty obligations.)

Of course, the shutdown might just end up fucking up the lives of Indians even more. Yeah, the furloughs have more or less gutted the Bureau of Indian Affairs and law enforcement on reservations. General food assistance programs are down, so people are going hungry in North Dakota and, as Senator Heidi Heitkamp said on the floor of the Senate, "The food banks and the food pantries are overrun."

Yeah, on this Columbus Day 2013, let's think, as ever, of the paths that the rest of the nation can take with Indian Country: compassion or neglect, help or harm.