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Funding will be key after Supreme Court ruling on tribal nations' health care

The U.S. Supreme Court.
Photo courtesy U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Courtreleased a ruling last week that mandates federal reimbursement for tribal health-care programs. Advocates have called it a victory for tribal sovereignty and improved health-care access for tribal nations across the country.

“The United States still is on the hook for providing healthcare to tribes through the statutes and through the treaties and the various agreements that are in place,” said ASU Law professor Derrick Beetso, who directs the school’s Indian Gaming and Tribal Self Governance Programs.

The decision was one to watch, he said, because of its implications for tribal sovereignty. But the real test will be for tribes to enter the bidding arena for funds from Congress.

“I think there will be some concerns about potentially increased appropriation funding requests on tribes in the healthcare space,” said Beetso. “And I think that’s natural, that’s a natural progression.”

But at the end of the day, said Beetso, it’s a check the law has already written and the Supreme Court has now ruled the federal government has to pay.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.
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