IHS eligible individuals now able to claim exemption through tax filing process

Press release: Indian Health Service

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced last week that individuals eligible to receive health care from an Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal, or urban Indian health program provider are now able to claim an exemption from the shared responsibility payment through the tax filing process starting with the 2014 tax year. This benefit was previously only available to members of federally recognized tribes (including Alaska Native shareholders). American Indian and Alaska Native individuals will continue to have the option of submitting the exemption application through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Prior to this week’s announcement, only individuals who were members of a federally recognized tribe were able to claim an exemption through the federal tax filing process. Individuals who are eligible to receive services from an Indian health care provider are eligible for a separate hardship exemption but were required to obtain this exemption through the Health Insurance Marketplace by filing a paper application.

The availability of the online tax filing process to apply for the hardship exemption will save time and reduce duplication of effort. Qualification for the Indian exemption can be established by attestation of membership in a federally recognized tribe or eligibility to receive services from an Indian health care provider.

Secretary Burwell first announced this updated rule at the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee meeting on September 18, 2014. This benefit of claiming the exemption through the tax filing process was initiated based on requests by tribal leaders. The IHS worked closely with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Internal Revenue Service to extend these options to individuals eligible to receive services from an Indian health care provider.

The IHS, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who are members of federally recognized tribes.

Foster child adoption halted over tribal ties



LYNDEN, Wash. — Her photos are still up on the refrigerator door.  Three-year-old “Elle” was Pete and Laura Lupo’s foster child, but she was much more than that to them.

“Every day when I walked through the door she would run to the door and squeeze my leg,” said foster father Pete Lupo.

“She would be just rough and tumble, but then she also like to have her nails painted and she liked pink,” said Laura Lupo, her foster mother.

In December, they say their dream came true. DSHS designated the Lupos to be her adoptive parents. “Elle’s” biological mother lost her parental rights. Her biological father, Scott Vaughn, who was serving time for assault with a deadly weapon, was about to lose his when the Lupos say he enrolled in the Cherokee tribe.

Related: Foster child’s uncle: “We wanted her all along”

It sent into motion a legal nightmare for the family, ending with DSHS removing “Elle” from her home two weeks ago.

“So on June 5, they came and got her. And we haven’t heard anything on how she’s doing,” said Laura Lupo, crying.

DSHS declined to comment stating the confidentiality of child welfare records, but the Lupos’ attorney says the department cited the Indian Child Welfare Act and state law, which says “any adoptive or other permanent placement of an Indian child, preference shall be given to…extended family members” first. A Skagit county court commissioner made the decision final on Tuesday.

“We have offered to enroll her, we have offered to go to Oklahoma, we have offered to meet with tribal members. It didn’t matter, none of it mattered,” said Laura Lupo.

“Elle” was placed with an uncle and aunt who she had met twice as an infant, and had a few arranged visits with in recent months. The Lupos say the heritage that “Elle” should have been taught to honor and cherish was used to rip her from her home and her family.

With tears in his eyes, Pete Lupo remembers saying goodbye to her.

“She gave me a kiss back and she said ‘I love you, Daddy.’ And I had to walk away,” he said.

A KING 5 investigation helped lead to a new state law allowing foster children to have their own attorney to give them a voice over life changing decisions, such as where they will live. The Lupos are hoping that law will help “Elle” get what is best for her. A Facebook page is dedicated to help bring “Elle” home.