Feds grant 1-year waiver for Insure Okla. program

09/11/2013 08:32 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The federal government will let the state operate its Insure Oklahoma health care plan for another year to buy state leaders more time to consider an alternative plan to provide coverage to the working poor, Gov. Mary Fallin announced on Sept. 6.

Flanked by state health officials, Fallin called the extension a “great win for the people of Oklahoma.”

“Insure Oklahoma has been around since 2005. It’s been a success for thousands of small businesses that have used it to help their employees purchase insurance,” Fallin said. “It’s been a success for tens of thousands of families of modest means, who would be uninsured without it. Moving forward, I strongly encourage our federal partners to review Insure Oklahoma’s many successes and announce their support for a permanent, ongoing program.”

Insure Oklahoma, which provides coverage to about 30,000 Oklahoma residents through both individual and employer-sponsored plans, was scheduled to cease operating at the end of the year. Federal officials expected many of the recipients to be eligible for Medicaid expansion if they earned up to 138 percent of federal poverty, or about $32,499 for a family of four.

But amid bitter resistance from some Republicans, Fallin rejected both the Medicaid expansion and the opportunity to set up a state-based insurance exchange where Oklahomans could purchase health insurance with federal tax subsidies. Both were offered under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Instead, Oklahoma residents who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four, will be able to use federal tax subsidies to buy policies online through a federal exchange beginning Oct. 1.

But some state residents, including thousands on the Insure Oklahoma program, would have fallen into a “coverage crater” where they would have been ineligible for tax subsidies or Medicaid.

Under the one-year waiver, about 8,000 individuals currently on Insure Oklahoma who earn between 100 and 200 percent of federal poverty will instead purchase their health insurance through the federal exchange. Some of the co-pays required through Insure Oklahoma also will be reduced, including a $25 co-pay for doctor visits that will drop to $4, said Nico Gomez, director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state agency that oversees the Medicaid program in Oklahoma.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services said federal officials are urging states to accept billions of dollars in available Medicaid funding made possible through the new federal health care law, which provides 100 percent federal funding for three years and then drops incrementally to 90 percent.

“We look forward to working with Oklahoma and all other states in bringing a flexible, state-based approach to Medicaid coverage expansion and encourage the state to explore these options,” spokeswoman Emma Sandoe said in a statement.

Republican legislators favor the Insure Oklahoma program over Medicaid expansion because individual recipients pay modest co-pays, with the rest of the premiums covered by employer payments in some cases, along with state and federal matching funds.

“There’s some personal responsibility in the plan,” Fallin said.

The state’s portion of the funding comes from a tobacco tax approved by voters and is used to draw down matching federal Medicaid dollars.


10/01/2016 10:00 AM
NEW ORLEANS – Two Cherokee Nation citizens earned Native American Journalists Association board of directors posts during the Excellence In Journalism 2016 conference held Sept. 17-21. Bryan Pollard, director of Tribal Relations for the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law, became president on Sept. 21 after a unanimous decision by the NAJA board of directors. Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, a Cherokee Phoenix correspondent and freelance journalist, was voted onto to the board on Sept. 20. Pollard graduated from Louisiana State University and has served as the Cherokee Phoenix executive editor, as well as the founding managing editor of Street Roots, a nonprofit newspaper focusing on issues affecting the homeless and low-income community in Portland, Oregon. He is a lifetime member of NAJA and the 2014 recipient of the Medill Milestone Achievement Award in recognition for outstanding contributions to Native journalism. Pollard said his main goal during his upcoming presidency is to implement a strategic fundraising plan to increase the organization’s overall budget and capacity to serve its members. “NAJA can only be as effective as our bottom line allows us to be. The board must serve the urgent need to increase our grant and gift revenue so that we can expand important programs like the student projects and support for free press efforts in Indian Country. We will have a strategic fund development plan to guide this effort,” he said. Another goal is to develop and publish a series of reporting guides to help mainstream journalists accurately report on issues in Indian Country. “Accurate and well-sourced reporting is more important now than ever in Indian Country,” Pollard said. “Whether you are a tribal journalist reporting on casino revenues or a mainstream journalist reporting on the Indian Child Welfare Act or the use of racial mascots, NAJA will be a firm and consistent voice demanding accurate and ethical reporting.” Krehbiel-Burton joined Jennifer Bell, Dr. Victoria LaPoe and Ramona Marozas as newly elected board members filling the seats vacated by Jason Begay, Dalton Walker, Eugene Tapahe and Rob Capriccioso. Krehbiel-Burton will serve a two-year team to complete Capriccioso’s term. She is a freelance reporter based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who has reported for Reuters, the Native American Times, the Tahlequah (Oklahoma) Daily Press, the Tulsa World and the Fort Sill Apache Tribe’s newsletter. She is a 2006 and 2008 graduate of Oklahoma State University, with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science and a master’s in international studies. She is a member of NAJA, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Oklahoma Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “I’m grateful that my colleagues have given me this opportunity. My hope is to use this two-year term to help NAJA build partnerships that will lead to greater opportunities for both our professional and collegiate members,” Krehbiel-Burton said. As for the other NAJA board officers, Tristan Ahtone, a freelance reporter based in New Mexico, is now vice president; Darren Brown, of Cheyenne and Arapaho Television, will act as secretary; and Bell, director of public information for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, will serve as treasurer. Ahtone said another goal would be to make NAJA a resource for ethical reporting in Indian Country and newsroom diversity. “It’s not simply a matter of hiring indigenous journalists, it’s about recognizing the need for a broader newsroom culture that prioritizes reporting in Indian Country and other communities of culture so that the need for those experts and professionals are seen at every level.”
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
09/30/2016 04:00 PM
CANNON BALL, N.D. – In September, two Cherokee Nation citizens, attorney Jim Cosby and CN employee Marcus Thompson, returned to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation to show their support and deliver collected supplies. The two men said they enjoyed their August experience there and were glad to lend a hand again. Thompson, a husband and father, said it’s not always easy to pick up and leave, but for something like this it was important to him and his family that he go and show support. “My wife told me, she said, ‘you need to go back and get more experience than you did the first time. The place got a lot bigger. The first time it was pretty packed, but now you got people all up and down the (Cannon Ball) river and all on the west side,” he said. “Made sure my family was cared for before I left and I made sure my leave (from work) was approved before I left.” Thompson said he wished he could share the experience with his family so they could see people gathering for a cause. “Not just tribes. You got people from all over…every different color up here. There all down here supporting, standing for Standing Rock too,” he said. Thompson added that during his first trip he and others wanted show that Cherokee people also support the Sioux’s efforts against the Dakota Access Pipeline. “We want to bring more supplies for them because you know it’s getting winter time and they need more camping gear this time and that’s what we brought, a lot of camping gear,” he said. In addition to taking donated supplies, Thompson brought his own supplies – stickball sticks. “I brought my stickball sticks this time. Hoping to get a chance for the kids to see how we play social stickball games back home and get that experience with them up here,” he said. Cosby said not only is it important for he and other Cherokees to support other Native Americans, it’s also incumbent to save the Earth. “We’ve seen a large degree of man’s destruction of Earth simply for corporate profit, so it’s important to me that this (the pipeline) be stopped and that we not only stand behind our Sioux brothers and sisters but that we protect Mother Earth from beings that want to ravage it for profit,” he said. After traveling and enduring costs associated with his August trip, Cosby said that was to be his only trip to North Dakota. However that changed, he said, after seeing the continuing need of supplies and support for the Sioux and their efforts. “Although the travel to this location is quite a long ways, they ask for our support, they ask for divine intervention and we felt that it was needed that we come back and not only bring supplies for them to continue their fight, but to show our support as Cherokees to these people and let them know that we are there for them,” he said. Cosby also said it isn’t easy to put your life on hold and go on such a trip and that there were others who helped with donations who wanted to go but couldn’t. “I’m just blessed with the ability to arrange my work schedule to do this. I felt that it was needed that it was important,” he said. “It’s a terrific thing to be able to come up here and allow my friends to journey along with us on such a great adventure to actually see firsthand what’s going on here and appreciate the magnitude of this event that more than likely we’ll never see again in our lives.”
09/30/2016 02:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The OSIYO Men’s Shelter in Tahlequah is hosting an appreciation reception by the shelter board from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 1 at the shelter. It is located at 118 W. Keetoowah in Tahlequah. For more information regarding the shelter, email <a href="mailto: tahlequahmensshelter@gmail.com">tahlequahmensshelter@gmail.com</a>.
09/29/2016 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – For the first time, one of the 18 treaties negotiated and signed during the Gold Rush between the United States and the American Indian nations in California, but secretly unratified by the U.S. Senate in 1852, went on display to the public on Sept. 22. The Treaty of Temecula, also known as Treaty K, was unveiled in the presence of the descendants of three of the Native nations affected by the Senate’s failure to ratify the agreement. Jeff Grubbe, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians chairman; Mark Macarro, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians chairman; Sabrina Nakhjavanpour, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians treasurer; and Melonie Calderon, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Business Committee member watched as the treaty went on display. Treaty K is just one of the 18 treaties that was submitted to the U.S. Senate on June 1, 1852, by President Millard Fillmore. Unbeknownst to the Native nations’ signatories, the Senate rejected the treaties and ordered them to be held in secrecy for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, left undefended by U.S. Armed Forces, Native nations across California were overrun by white settlers and American Indians were subjected to violence at the hands of state and local militias. Considered illegal aliens on their own lands without state or federal legal recourse, it led to their ethnic cleansing. The American Indian population in California plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000 between 1846 and 1870. The 1880 census records 16,277 American Indians in California – a 90 percent decline in their population since the onset of the Gold Rush. Grubbe read to the group quoting a Nov. 22, 1852, letter by California Indian Affairs Superintendent Edward F. Beale to U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Luke Lea: “The wretched remnant which escapes starvation on the one hand, and the relentless whites on the other, only do so to rot and die of a loathsome disease, the penalty of Indian association with frontier civilization…I have seen it, and seeing all this, I cannot help them. I know they starve; I know they perish by hundreds; I know that they are fading away with startling rapidity; but I cannot help them…They are not dangerous…It is a crying sin that our government, so wealthy and so powerful, should shut its eyes to the miserable fate of these rightful owners of the soil.” Macarro noted that Sept. 23 is American Indian Day in California. “It also happens to be the day on which the Pechanga Nation people were evicted in 1852. Seeing this treaty on display is both horrific as it shines daylight on the cheat and fraud that accompanied the sale of our land. But California Indian nations had treaties with the United States, and this is validation,” he said. Nakhjavanpour said there is much Native people have to do as a whole but they remain despite deplorable actions past and present. “What happened during the Gold Rush is different to what we see happening today at Standing Rock with oil,” she said. “But there are similarities in the quest for commodities near American Indian nation land. We have to keep fighting.” On loan from the National Archives and Records Administration through January 2017, including the anniversary date of the treaty on Jan. 5, Treaty K will be on display in the museum’s award-winning exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations,” which opened on Sept. 21, 2014, and will stay open through Spring 2020. The full text of the treaty is available on the Nation to Nation project website. “Consent is at the heart of the treaty relationship,” NMAI Director Kevin Gover said. “That is what this exhibition is all about. And it is not just about the past. It is about the present and future, too. Just imagine what the world would be were decisions are made bi-laterally. When both parties agree, good things result, both can thrive. When they are made unilaterally or when agreements are not kept, bad things happen.”
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
09/28/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission on Sept. 19 moved into its new building at 17763 S. Muskogee Ave., the former site of the Tribal Council House that was torn down in 2015. The new 3,500-square-foot location is west of the tribe’s Emergency Medical Services building, where Election Commissioner Martha Calico said the commission had been located since 2003. Calico said before 2003 the EC was located east of the Tribal Complex in what is now the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service building. CN Management Resources razed the former Tribal Council House on July 11, 2015, after it was determined to be structurally unsound. The tribe’s legislative branch was relocated to the Tribal Complex following the July 17, 2013, discovery of several mold species in the Tribal Council House. According to CN Communications, the estimated cost of the new facility was about $250,000, which included materials and sub-contractors used for the construction. CN Facilities Administrator Jimmy Hullinger, who oversaw the new building’s construction, said its design would help the EC better serve CN citizens. “The new building is a 3,500-square-foot building, and the layout is more accessible to the public,” Hullinger said. He added that the larger lobby would be more convenient to visitors, and because the EC is the building’s only occupant, security could be easier to maintain. He also said the new facility has a vault of “concrete construction with a metal ceiling” for storing ballots and other important items. EC Director Connie Parnell said she was happy the EC would no longer share space with other departments. “We will be completely separate from everyone. This is a better move and a better location because it best serves how elections are conducted,” she said. “We have security vaults. We have offices. We have a large conference room so we can handle all of our meetings, during elections time, processing of all the election absentees, tabulating. We have the room for all of our duties to make an election run very smoothly.” In a previous Cherokee Phoenix story, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said to accommodate the growing CN workforce it was necessary to build the new EC office. “The construction is a good choice and wise investment. By moving the Election Commission office into its own free-standing building, it also allows the Nation to look at ways to utilize the space vacated by the Election Commission for other purposes, including possibly for the Marshal Service,” he said. To contact the EC, call toll free at 1-800-353-2895 or 918-452-5899 or write to PO Box 1188, Tahlequah, OK 74465.
09/26/2016 01:00 PM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials said they are moving forward with the purchase and acquisition of the historic home of the Cherokee syllabary inventor, Sequoyah. However, as of publication, CN officials had not announced a final deal. The Oklahoma Historical Society, a state agency, owns and operates Sequoyah’s Cabin near Sallisaw. The site is a Sequoyah County tourist attraction. “Sequoyah is one of our most well-known statesmen and historical figures, and his contributions to the Cherokee Nation are immeasurable,” CN Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said in a Sept. 2 CN Communications release. “His invention of the Cherokee syllabary may be one of the single most important contributions to the advancement of the Cherokee people and Cherokee society. The Cherokee Nation is taking an important step by ensuring the preservation of Sequoyah’s homestead.” According to the release, the OHS has needed to divest itself of the property due to state budget cuts. According to a Sequoyah County Times report, it costs about $100,000 annually to maintain the cabin. “Over the past eight years, the state appropriation to the Oklahoma Historical Society has been cut by 40 percent,” OHS Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn said. “Fortunately for us and the legacy of Sequoyah, the Cherokee Nation is willing to assume ownership and keep the site open.” According to the CN release, Hoskin said it is “unfortunate that after 80 years, the state no longer has the resources to manage and maintain the property because the significance of Sequoyah’s homestead cannot be overstated.” Sequoyah was born in Tennessee around 1778. He began experimenting with an alphabet for the Cherokee language, and it was complete in the 1820s. The Cherokees were the first Indian tribe to develop a written alphabet, known as the Cherokee syllabary. Literacy rates among Cherokees soared within just a few years. Sequoyah was among the “Old Settlers” of the CN, who migrated to present-day Oklahoma and western Arkansas in approximately 1818, prior to the Trail of Tears. Built in1829, the one-room log cabin and more than 200 acres were acquired by the OHS in 1936. In 1965, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. According to the Sequoyah County times report, CN Natural Resources Director Gunter Gulager said the CN had paid $100,000 for the 171.54-acre property and that the property was expected to transfer to Cherokee Nation Business for management. However, according to a Sept. 6 email from CN Communications, the tribe was still in the process of buying the cabin and no deal had been finalized. According to the Sequoyah County Times, the state and tribe plan to work together to advertise and draw in tourists and that OHS officials said the money it makes from selling the cabin would be invested in other state-owned historic properties. “Our planned acquisition of the cabin is another example of the Cherokee Nation relieving the state of public use facilities that might otherwise be closed,” Hoskin said in the CN release. According to the release, in recent years the CN has assumed ownership of two Oklahoma welcome centers that still operate as welcome centers and now feature Cherokee merchandise, clothing and information on Cherokee attractions. The Cherokee Phoenix requested comment from CN officials regarding the cabin but did not receive a response as of publication.