WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Nov. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 220-215 to narrowly pass the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act (H.R. 3962). Included in the bill was language to permanently reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), which was last authorized nearly 10 years ago. The bill now moves to the Senate where it is expected to receive significant opposition from its Republican members.
"I want to thank the Representatives that voted in support of the Health Care Bill, said Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelly. "New Mexico Representatives Ben Luján, Martin Heinrich, and Arizona Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick, Raúl Grijalva and Ed Pastor, all recognized the need of not just better access to health care for native people but larger health care reform for all Americans."
Vice President Shelly also acknowledged the work involved in the constant advocacy needed to provide access to health care for the Navajo people.
"The weekend vote was a historic one, brought in part by the efforts by the Navajo Nation Division of Health, the Navajo Nation Council's Health and Social Services Committee, and the Navajo Nation Washington Office. However, we are not done," continued Shelly. "This is a first step and we must keep the pressure on Congress to get this bill to President Obama's desk."
Navajo Nation Council Health and Social Services Committee Chairman, Thomas Walker Jr., was satisfied at the outcome of the vote.
"It has been a long haul to get IHCIA to this point. Now we need to push even harder on the Senate and not let it die on the floor," said Walker.
Anslem Roanhorse, Division Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Health and Human Services said, "The larger bill passing is very exciting but the section containing the IHCIA reauthorization makes it even more special for the nation's tribes who have invested a lot of time working on it."
The House action occurred during the same week President Obama held a historic White House Leaders Conference where nearly all of the nation's 564 federally recognized tribes sent leaders to participate the day-long town hall event.