Northern Arapaho tribe’s ACA suit advances in federal court

By Trevor Graff, Casper Star-Tribune Communications

A federal court in Casper considered blocking an Internal Revenue Service rule that Northern Arapaho officials say could cause Native Americans to pay more for insurance or lose health care benefits.

Tribal leaders say the proposed IRS interpretation of a mandate for large employers to provide health care coverage would unlawfully exempt tribal members who work for the Northern Arapaho from receiving tax credits and cost-sharing benefits granted Native Americans in the Affordable Care Act.

Kelly Rudd, the Northern Arapaho attorney, said the agency’s interpretation could subject the tribe to more than $1.5 million in tax penalties if its business entities, including Wind River Casino, do not offer employer-sponsored insurance.

“They proposed a one-size-fits-all, large-employer mandate that doesn’t fit Congress’ purpose of bringing health care to working-class Native Americans,” Rudd said.

He said the tribe insures employees with plans from the federal health insurance marketplace and pays 80 percent of the premium costs.

Those policies provide better coverage than the tribe could purchase independently, Rudd said.

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say the rule-making is based on Congress’ intent to promote employer-sponsored health coverage under the ACA.

Jacek Pruski, a U.S. Department of Justice attorney, told the court that the IRS rule-making is in compliance with the purpose of the ACA.

He said the court should reject the motion to block enforcement of the rule because the tribe did not establish the strength of its case based on prior case law.

Rudd said the U.S. Department of the Interior is charged with overseeing tribal health care programs. He said the IRS did not communicate with the Interior Department while drafting the rule.

“Basically what we have is a left-hand-right-hand problem in communication among agencies,” Rudd said.

U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl said he would need more time to deliberate on the suit because of the complicated nature of the Affordable Care Act.

“This is the statute that cast a thousand lawsuits,” he said.

Skavdahl said he would release his decision in the coming weeks.

Choctaw Leader: FDA Should Formally Consult With Tribes or Exempt Them From FSMA

By Dan Flynn, Food Safety News

Shannon McDaniel, executive director of tribal operations, has made a simple and straightforward request on behalf of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. He wants all 565 federally recognized tribes exempted from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Or, to put it in his own words and more specifically, McDaniel wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the produce rule “expressly to exempt tribal nations, their lands, and their members from application of the proposed rule.”

“Alternatively,” McDaniel said, “we strongly urge FDA to schedule formal consultations with tribal nations and, until such consultation is complete, we urge FDA from enforcing the final rule on tribal nationals, their lands, and their people.”

The Choctaw Nation, which, since the “Trail of Tears” in 1830, has been located in southeastern Oklahoma, is a longtime fruit and vegetable producer. It is one of a dozen or so Tribal Nations that, during the past two years, has pressured FDA and the White House for meaningful consultation over FSMA implementation.

American Indian tribes are sovereign nations, and their authority stems from treaties, acts of Congress, and presidential authorities. President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order (EO) 13175 in 2000, which was reaffirmed by President Obama in 2009, and requires federal agencies to consult with tribes when promulgating rules and regulations impacting their reservations.

To comply with EO 13175, FDA’s parent agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has its own plan to consult, saying that the tribes will be consulted “to the extent practicable and permitted by law … .”

This is not the first time tribal leaders have raised their request for “meaningful consultation.” And, it’s not as if FDA has not been listening.

In November 2013, FDA conducted a two-hour webinar with the tribes on the FSMA rule package. Afterward, Raymond Foxworth of the First Nations Development Institute told Food Safety News that the webinars were small steps and that there was a long way to go for “meaningful consultation.”

Then, last April, FDA met with tribal leaders for a half-day consultation session in New Mexico. The discussion centered on the produce rule, the Environmental Impact Statement for the produce rule, and questions and other feedback on all seven FSMA rules. A side meeting was held with the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, AZ.

But, as the recent Choctaw letter indicates, those meetings, along with all the normal public input opportunities, are still considered inadequate by tribal leaders. They say that FDA, which is also under federal court orders for completing the rules, opted not to follow the established Tribal Consultation Policy and did not engage the tribes during the development stage for the rules.

Kathleen Sebelius: New Initiatives To End Bullying

bullyingSource: Indian Country Today Media Network

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released the following statement about new initiatives to end bullying in schools across the country.

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month—when individuals, families, schools and communities across the nation help to raise awareness about bullying prevention. Bullying remains a widespread problem with nearly 30 percent of adolescents in the U.S. reporting some experience with bullying, whether as the victim, the bully or both. An infographic developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration highlights important facts and information about bullying prevention. We know that there are a number of emotional effects that can result from bullying such as depression and anxiety. There are also physical effects as well, like headaches and stomachaches, and sleep problems. In a special supplement of the Journal of Adolescent Health supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, we see how researchers continue to investigate the complex relationship between bullying and suicide.

But help is available. I am very pleased to highlight a number of exciting activities and initiatives that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be launching during Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

Media Guidelines for Bullying Prevention

Media coverage of social issues can have a widespread impact on how communities understand and address problems. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has developed media guidelines conveniently located in the newsroom of This guidance offers help to journalists, bloggers, and others to engage in responsible reporting on this important topic.


Later this month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will release a mobile app for parents to help start conversations with their children about bullying. This app will be available for both Android and Apple platforms.

Bullying Prevention Training Center

This revamped section of provides a one-stop-shop for training materials for educators and community leaders. These new materials, developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration, will be available in late October in our training section on

Successful bullying prevention can’t happen alone! We work closely with the Departments of Education, Justice, and Agriculture, and others, through the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention; including supporting, which continues to be an excellent resource for bullying prevention information.

We are collaborating with these offices to support youth engagement. Across the country, youth are encouraged to talk about bullying by organizing bullying prevention social and educational events through youth organizations in their communities. Youth can report back on these activities through our Tumblr page.

The Department of Education has issued guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague letter that provides an overview of school districts’ responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to address bullying of students with disabilities.

With all of these resources available, it’s a great time to consider how you can help raise awareness about bullying and take action to stop it. Find out the latest policies and laws that are in your state. Teens can find inspiration by visiting our Tumblr site. Tell us what you are going to do by engaging on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And follow along with Bullying Prevention Awareness Month Activities at #StopBullying13.