Negative IHS Health Care Initiative Vote Sends Mixed Signals To Navajo Nation’s Leaders<br>

Navajo Nation Window Rock, (Arizona) – With regard to the recent referendum vote on the Indian Health Service Self Determination Contract Initiative (Health Care Initiative), the Office of the President and Vice President feels that as the contract development and negotiation continues, careful review and discussion of the Health Care Initiative must be an integral part of the proceedings. The meaning of the health care referendum is not absolutely clear, for we believe the results lend itself to a number of interpretations, but at the moment we are taking careful thought on the results of the referendum election.

Though the referendum measure did not pass, it is an indication that the Navajo leadership should not sit back or remain silent on this important issue. It has to be noted that the larger number of those who voted do not support the health care initiative.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, we cannot comment on the specifics that would outline a certain strategy to address the concerns of the Navajo voters. There are still many questions to be considered and still much more discussions that need to take place. It is still too early for us to determine what will lie ahead, given the results of the referendum election. From this point forward, the Navajo Nation leadership must consider many tough questions with regard to referendum voting and the significance of such elections.

At the Navajo Nation Special Council Session in May 2001, Council Delegate Ervin M. Keeswood, Sr., made a significant effort to have the Council consider a resolution that would make major changes to the use and effectiveness of referendum elections.

Most importantly, the proposed resolution would have incorporated into Navajo Nation law that new referendum elections would pass with a simple majority of those who voted.

Though the Navajo Nation Council had a great opportunity to make significant changes to the referendum language, it tabled the measure. It is our understanding the referendum issue was tabled for consideration after the referendum election held on June 19, 2001.

The current referendum language leaves much for interpretation. We are working to tighten the language on this. It is clear the current referendum election process needs to be addressed, and changes need to be made to the law in order to capture a clear significance in the meaning of its potential outcome. In other words, the Navajo people need a stronger voice. The Office of the President and Vice President is strongly favorable of such proposed changes.

There is the prevailing misconception that the Navajo Nation will operate and manage the health care system. It will not.

We want to clarify that the Navajo Nation tribal government will not operate and manage the proposed health care system. The plan has always been to establish a non-profit private sector-like organization to run the health care system in the event of contracting. In this instance, the Navajo Health Care System Corporation (NHSC) was established to be at arms-length from the Navajo Nation government. The NHSC is not part of the Navajo tribal government.

The Begaye/McKenzie administration supports the plan to keep the health care system separate from any government, whether it is federal, tribal, state or county.

I thank the Navajo people for making an effort to become informed about this very complicated issue then voting to the best of their knowledge in the issue.

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