The Obama administration on Wednesday broadened an exemption for American Indians from the new health care law’s requirement that virtually every U.S. resident has health insurance starting next year.
New rules clarify that people who are eligible to receive medical care through the federal Indian Health Service will be exempt from the requirement to have health insurance or face fines from the Internal Revenue Service. The Indian Health Service, a division of U.S. Health and Human Services, oversees a network of clinics that are required through treaty obligations to serve all patients of Indian ancestry, even if they cannot document their federal tribal status.
“Today, we continue to fulfill our responsibility to consult and work with tribal communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
Last month, The Associated Press reported that the Affordable Care Act exempted only American Indians and Alaska Natives who can document their membership in one of about 560 tribes recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Yet more than 100 tribes nationwide are recognized only by states and not the federal government.
That meant thousands of people who consider themselves Native Americans would have to buy their own health insurance policies or pay a $695 fine to the Internal Revenue Service unless they could prove they were eligible to claim an exemption under the Affordable Care Act. The health care law mandates that all Americans carry insurance, with just a few exemptions.
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