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Navajo Leaders: Tribal Members Should Be Exempt From AHCCCS Rule

The Arizona Legislature passed Senate Bill 1092 in 2015 requiring all "able-bodied adults" receiving Medicaid to be employed, looking for a job or in school.

Each year Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) has to submit to the federal agency that oversees Medicaid what's called a "waiver amendment," which would reaffirm SB 1092.

Prior to that submission, there's a public comment period.

Navajo delegates are arguing that Native communities should be exempt from the rule.

More than 170,000 Native Americans rely on Arizona’s Medicaid. About half the Navajo Tribe is unemployed. Many move off the reservation to go to school or to find work.

Navajo Council Delegate Jonathan Hale said this amendment should not include Native people because the federal government and the state of Arizona have a responsibility to take care of the tribes based on a 150-year-old treaty.

Another council member, Nelson Begaye, is also opposed to the amendment but said he hopes Navajos will “begin the path to self reliance.”

The public comment period ends March 30.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This headline and story have been updated to reflect that Senate Bill 1092 was passed in 2015.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.