By Melissa Gower
This is in response to Billy McCoy’s comments on Oct. 2, “Chief hurts nation over freedmen issue.”
McCoy is very confused about tribal health care, and brings up the issue of United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indian citizens being refused medical services at Cherokee Nation’s Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell.
As the group leader for all Cherokee Nation Health Services, I would like to ensure that all readers have the facts and information. WPMHC, like all of the eight health centers the Cherokee Nation owns and operates, uses Indian Health Service funding to provide health care to citizens of all tribes, including the UKBCIO.
By using Indian Health Service funding we are required to also use Indian Health Service eligibility for all health programs offered with Indian Health Service funding.
However, as most people know we only receive enough IHS funding for about 42 percent of the health care needs. Therefore, Cherokee Nation, as do many tribal nations, has decided to fund additional health care programs with revenue from tribal funding sources, such as casinos and other enterprises, to provide certain services only to our tribal citizens.
The UKBCIO, just as any other tribe, could also choose to use its own tribal revenues to provide additional health services for its own citizens, which Cherokee Nation citizens would not be eligible to access.
Cherokee Nation Health Services provides more than 326,000 patient visits annually, serving more than 126,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives, including many UKBCIO citizens.
If California congresswoman Diane Watson has her way and cuts off all funding to our tribe, other local private and public health systems will be instantly flooded with patients that we currently serve.
The very people McCoy is so concerned about will be without health care.
If McCoy would read up on Cherokee Nation’s citizenship law, perhaps he would understand that it is constitutionally-driven.
Our laws say that the principal chief cannot change our Constitution any more than the president of the United States can amend the U.S. Constitution. Only the Cherokee people can do that. We are a law-abiding people.
I hope that I have shed some light on the true facts in this situation and can assure each and every one of you that we will continue to strive to meet all health care needs.
Melissa Gower is the group leader for Cherokee Nation Health Services.