Navigating MNSure and Indian Health Services


The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care)

is a federal law that provides health insurance coverage options that

are more accessible and affordable. Minnesota, like all states, was

given three options to deliver insurance to its citizens. Minnesota

chose a state-based exchange where the state runs its own Healthcare

Marketplace, now called MNsure.

Open enrollment for MNsure began on

Oct. 1 for most Minnesotans. American Indians of Minnesota,

tribally-enrolled or documented lineage, have no closing date to

enroll in a healthcare plan; more information will be provided in

regards to proof of enrollment and lineage. We are also exempt from

the federal mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health

insurance that includes tax penalties.

If you are eligible for Medical

Assistance (Medicaid), you are not required to enroll in a health

plan. Now, with any large complex system to implement, there are some

bugs to be fixed with the online enrollment. Please be patient or

schedule an appointment with your local Certified MNsure Navigator.

MNsure Marketplace offers unique benefits and opportunities for

American Indians. If you receive services, or qualify for services

from an IHS, Tribal, or Urban Indian Healthcare facility, you can


  • Consistent care: You can continue

    to get care from your IHS, Tribal or Urban Indian Healthcare


  • No cost sharing: You will not pay

    any out of pocket expenses such as copays and deductibles for any

    service if you receive care from an IHS, Tribal or Urban Indian

    Healthcare facility. You may also qualify for cost sharing for

    services provided by an outside provider if you meet income


  • Tribal Sponsorship: Some Minnesota

    tribes are supporting enrolled members by paying their insurance

    premiums. Contact your tribal clinic for more information.

  • Coverage: Health insurance covers

    the costs for health services needed outside of your IHS, Tribal or

    Urban Indian Healthcare facility.

  • Options: Clear descriptions of all

    plans with side-by-side comparisons of all private insurance

    companies, public programs like Medical Assistance (MA) and

    Minnesota Care (MNcare).

  • Better Programs: With more

    American Indians having some form of coverage such as Medicaid,

    MNCare and private insurance, Indian Health Services will be better

    able to provide much needed health service programs such as diabetes

    prevention and education and disease prevention and education.

As an American Indian growing up on

the Reservation, I had access to free health care funded by the

federal government through the Indian Health Service. Based on the

relationship between tribes and the federal government, free health

care is to be provided but as it currently stands, the medical

services provided to Indian County are funded at about 50 percent of

the need; and that’s a generous estimate.

Although extremely underfunded,

tribal clinics work with these limited resources available to them

and try their best to make end meets. However, I know of horror

stories of needed care being denied for lack of funding.

Our people are continuously facing

life and death situations, such as waiting for a stroke or heart

attack to occur instead of treating the condition before it happens.

Further, appointment wait times at tribal clinics push people to

their local emergency rooms, for non-emergent issues, creating a

financial burden on the healthcare system for those services. This in

turn, makes it more important than ever to have additional coverage

for all of your healthcare needs. If a true emergency arises, you

have that assurance, without a financial burden, to receive emergency


I was recently hired by the Indian

Health Board as the new Enrollment Specialist. My job is to help

enroll as many American Indians and their families through MNsure as

possible. I encourage you to take that first step in a healthy

direction by taking control of your healthcare needs. Having that

additional coverage can give a person piece of mind knowing that

those necessary services will be covered, when needed.

I know the idea of looking for a

health plan may seem foreign to some, however, the Indian Health

Board of Minneapolis has staff on hand that are available to answer

your questions and calm your concerns. Let me help you understand

what your role is and to make this process extremely smooth and leave

the worrying to me. If you would like to make an appointment with me

or have questions regarding eligibility, I can be reached directly at

612-721-9883 and by email Information can

also be found on our Web site,, as well as

our Indian Health Board of Minneapolis Facebook and Twitter pages.

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