Make no mistake: The Trump administration and Senate Republicans are trying to force a justice onto the court to finish the job they could not finish in Congress. They want to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We can be sure of it because, right now, Republican state attorneys general are in court trying to do exactly that.
This Republican power grab is a threat to the health of all communities, but the consequences for Indian Country could be especially dire. If Senate Republicans have their way, Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be seated on the Supreme Court in time to rule on the Republican attempt to tear down the ACA — and with it, the health care of millions of Native Americans.
"Don't get sick after June" was a familiar refrain on many reservations, pueblos, homelands, and villages — a brutal reminder that IHS operating funds ran dry long before the end of the fiscal year. And those uninsured Native families who lived outside of Indian Country often found themselves with nowhere to turn for health care; their reality was simply "don't get sick." The truth is that ACA has opened the doors for many Native Americans to access the care they need, whether it's an unplanned medical emergency or routine preventative checkups and screenings.
In the face of months of Senate Republican inaction to tackle the turmoil caused by Covid-19, ACA is the foundation that is keeping Native health systems standing. It is providing millions of Native families peace of mind, knowing they have health care coverage if the worst were to happen. This law is keeping the lights on at IHS facilities.
The Republican obsession with dismantling ACA — no matter the consequences and by any means necessary — brazenly flouts the federal government's trust and treaty obligation to provide health care to Native Americans. Now, as in 2017, they're again trying to bypass the will of the people — and continuing their failure to consult with tribes and consider how repeal would hurt Native communities.
This fight is not over. In response to this latest Republican effort to gut the ACA, we urge American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians across the country to share how the ACA has benefitted you and your communities. Do not let Republicans silence your stories.
We are in this fight together, and we remain committed to partnering with tribal leaders and Native communities to uphold the federal government's sacred trust and treaty obligations. We have a duty and responsibility to do what we can to ensure Native communities are healthy and strong. The Affordable Care Act was a giant step forward. We will not stand by as Donald Trump and Senate Republicans try to take us backward.