Johnson’s Tribal Parity Bill Passes Out of Committee
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed the Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act (H.R. 895), which was introduced by U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) earlier this year.
This legislation would amend Section 409 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to clarify that tribal grant schools are eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program and the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program.
“Tribal schools have enough challenges without having to deal with confusing and inconsistent government rules,” said Johnson. “Employees of two types of tribal schools qualify for federal employee benefits. Surprisingly, employees of the third type of tribal school don’t qualify for those benefits. My bill will end this disparity, and I’m grateful for the committee’s action today.”
“This simple and clean legislative fix would directly benefit our schools by allowing them to access lower cost insurance options for their employees at significant overall savings – a benefit that is already provided at all other BIE system schools,” said Cecelia Firethunder, President of the Oglala Lakota Nation Education Coalition.
In 2010, Congress reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. A provision was included in Section 409 of this law that allows tribes and tribal organizations, including schools, operating programs through P.L. 93-638 contracts to be eligible for insurance coverage for their employees through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program and the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program. This provision did not explicitly mention P.L. 100-297 and, therefore, the Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Health and Human Services, determined that tribal grant schools are ineligible to purchase insurance coverage for their employees through FEHB and FEGLI.
The Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act would improve the recruitment and retention of professional educators in tribal and rural communities and would allow tribal schools to spend less on health care and more on their students. Tribal grant schools would still be required to pay the government’s contribution toward the insurance premiums and the employees would be responsible for the remaining balance.