January 16 2014
JUNEAU – The Affordable Care Act provides Alaska Native people with more choices for additional healthcare coverage beyond the Indian Health Service benefit. Alaska Natives may also qualify for special coverage and protections.
Under the new health care law, everyone is required to maintain minimum essential coverage or pay a fee (known as the shared responsibility payment). Being eligible for IHS services alone does not meet the minimum essential coverage requirement. If you do not already have private insurance or qualify for Medicare or Medicaid you must still actively file for an exemption.
Alaska Natives may now be eligible to purchase insurance coverage or determine if they qualify to enroll in Medicaid. Individuals that qualify for and enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace may also be eligible for premium tax credit assistance (which is based on income) and/or cost sharing waivers (based on being a member of a federally recognized tribe).
There are excellent reasons to purchase insurance over and above any IHS benefits. Applying for health care coverage would assist in covering all of one’s health care needs. There are services, treatments, programs, pharmaceuticals that may not be available in the Tribal Health System that may be available in the marketplace on in conjunction with SEARHC. Additionally, it is important to note that should a patient require medical care outside his or her home state, an IHS facility may not be available, leaving the patient responsible for entire medical bill.
It is important to note that Alaska Natives are technically exempt from the requirement to purchase insurance as long as you can show proof of Tribal Enrollment. However, even if one chooses not to purchase insurance, exemption paperwork must be filed. Failure to file an exemption or purchase insurance will result in a tax penalty of $95/adult, $47.50/child (up to $285/family) or 1% of income in 2014 followed by $695/adult and $347.50/child (up to $2,085/family) or 2% of family income the next year.
To file an exemption, visit http://marketplace.cms.gov/getofficialresources/publications-and-articles/tribal-exemption.pdf. For assistance, please contact the SEARHC Outreach and Enrollment department free at 1-855-966-8684 for more information or assistance. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.