October 26, 2020

ICYMI: Senators Warren and Udall Op-Ed: Supreme Court power grab threatens Native health care during the pandemic

Read full op-ed here

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) published an op-ed on CNN.com warning that repeal of the Affordable Care Act would rip away health care from millions in Native communities, as Republicans ram through a Supreme Court nomination just eight days before the election. 

Key sections below. Read the full op-ed here.

CNN.com: Supreme Court power grab threatens Native health care during the pandemic
Opinion by Tom Udall and Elizabeth Warren
October 25, 2020

As millions of Americans cast their ballots in the most important presidential election in recent history, and as Native communities grapple with the disproportionate toll of a once-in-a-century pandemic, Senate Republicans are focused on one thing: installing a right-wing judge on our nation's highest court.


This Republican power grab is a threat to the health of all communities, but the consequences for Indian Country could be especially dire. If Senate Republicans have their way, Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be seated on the Supreme Court in time to rule on the Republican attempt to tear down the ACA - and with it, the health care of millions of Native Americans.


As US senators, who together represent 25 federally recognized tribes in New Mexico and Massachusetts, as well as two Urban Indian Health Programs, we have heard firsthand accounts from tribal leaders, Native families, and health care providers about how the ACA has improved the health care landscape across Indian Country - literally saving lives.


Before the ACA, 29% of Native Americans lacked health insurance coverage. Those who relied on IHS were routinely denied medically necessary care due to budget shortfalls.

"Don't get sick after June" was a familiar refrain on many reservations, pueblos, homelands, and villages - a brutal reminder that IHS operating funds ran dry long before the end of the fiscal year. And those uninsured Native families who lived outside of Indian Country often found themselves with nowhere to turn for health care; their reality was simply "don't get sick." The truth is that ACA has opened the doors for many Native Americans to access the care they need, whether it's an unplanned medical emergency or routine preventative checkups and screenings.


The Republican obsession with dismantling ACA - no matter the consequences and by any means necessary - brazenly flouts the federal government's trust and treaty obligation to provide health care to Native Americans. Now, as in 2017, they're again trying to bypass the will of the people - and continuing their failure to consult with tribes and consider how repeal would hurt Native communities.


This fight is not over. In response to this latest Republican effort to gut the ACA, we urge American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians across the country to share how the ACA has benefitted you and your communities. Do not let Republicans silence your stories.