A speaker told tribal members in Fort Hall to both get an exemption and sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Thursday evening the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel hosted Mark Trahant, the Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage and also a member of the tribes, to talk about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and how Native Americans should be looking at insurance.
"The United States - through treaties which the Constitution calls the Supreme Law of the Land - made promises," Trahant said. "And one of those promises was health care. Even though it was a sacred promise through those treaties, it's never been funded. In fact, at best the Indian Health System was about half-funded."
Trahant said Native Americans should sign up for the insurance even if they do think it was already a guaranteed right.
"The government never lived up to it," Trahant said, "and here's an opportunity to get full funding."
He also said Native Americans have a very specific exemption, and the best way to make sure they get that is to submit with their taxes.
"It's kind of a contrary thing to say to get the exemption, but then get insurance," said Trahant, "but I think you should do both because the exemption provisions are there. And it's a lifetime exemption, because if someone's a member of a tribe that's not going to change overnight."
Trahant also said this health care reform will be a major factor in lowering the federal deficit. He said the United States spends the most money in the world on health care, but also has the highest number of bankruptcy caused by medical bills.