Moran helps introduce bill to increase Native American Veterans’ access to VA healthcare

(Joseph Hennessy)
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 12:55 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Tester introduced a new bipartisan bill to increase Native American Veterans’ access to VA health care and eliminate copays.

Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) says he and Senator Jon Tester (D-Minn.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the Native American Veteran Parity in Access to Care Today Act, which is bipartisan legislation that works to eliminate copayments for Native American veterans accessing Department of Veterans Affairs health care. He said the legislation brings parity between Native American veterans receiving VA services and Native Americans who receive services through the Department of Health and Human Services Indian Health Services.

“Our nation is proud of the 21,000 Native Americans who have served our country, and it is our responsibility to make certain the care they are provided at the Department of Veterans Affairs is in line with current federal practice,” said Chairman Moran. “This legislation would eliminate the VA copay for Native American veterans to help them have greater access to the care and resources they have earned.”

“Native Americans serve our nation at the highest rates, and we have a responsibility to ensure they have access to benefits and care they’ve earned when they return home from service,” said Ranking Member Tester. “The fact is that the federal government is tasked with providing health care to all Native American veterans free of charge—and the buck stops with VA. Our bipartisan bill requires VA to bring its copay requirements in line with the Indian Health Service, eliminating out-of-pocket costs for our nation’s Native veterans.”

According to Sen. Moran, Native Americans getting care at IHS are not required to pay health care copayments in accordance with the U.S. trust and treaty obligations. He said Native American veterans are required to pay copayments when receiving services through the VHA, creating a disparity for those who get health care at the VA rather than IHS and causes a barrier to access to care. He said the bill will require the VA to treat hospital care and medical services at VHA similarly to health care provided at IHS, which eliminates copayments for Native American veterans.

“The federal government’s responsibility to provide quality healthcare to American Indian and Alaska Native veterans comes both from their service to this country and the federal government’s treaty and trust obligations to American Indian and Alaska Native people,” said President of the National Congress of American Indians Fawn Sharp. “Currently, American Indian and Alaska Native veterans are required to pay a copayment before receiving services at the Veterans Health Administration, representing a significant barrier to care. The Native American Veteran Parity in Access to Care Today Act improves accessibility to Veterans Health Administration services by eliminating copayments for our American Indian and Alaska Native veterans.”

“That National Indian Health Board is committed to ensuring the highest health status and outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans, and the Native American Veteran Parity in Access to Care Today (PACT) Act would allow Native Veterans to receive care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) without a copayment,” said CEO of the National Indian Health Board Stacy A. Bohlen. “The PACT Act moves us closer to fulfillment of the federal government’s dual responsibility to Native Veterans. NIHB commends Senator Tester and Senator Moran for leading this bill, and stands ready to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner to enact legislation that strengthens the government-to-government relationship, improves coordinated care between the Indian Health Service and VHA, and ultimately elevates healthcare access for all Native veterans across Indian Country.”

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