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Tribal News

Northern Arapaho Loses Lawsuit Against IRS

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The Northern Arapaho tribe recently lost a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. The tribe sued the IRS because it classified the Northern Arapaho as a large employer, requiring them to pay for employee health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The tribe argued that a long-standing treaty requires the federal government to pay for Native American health care, and that the federally-run Indian Health Services isn’t doing good enough to fulfill that agreement.

We do not think Congress intended to block Native Americans working for large employers from health care benefits

But the Department of Justice successfully argued that the large employer health insurance payments are actually a kind of tax and so can’t be hit with a lawsuit until after the tribe pays. Northern Arapaho Chairman Dean Goggles says he thinks this is a misinterpretation of the ACA.

“We are disappointed in the ruling, of course. But we do not think Congress intended to block Native Americans working for large employers from health care benefits.”

Until this ruling, the Northern Arapaho has been able to offer its employees health coverage through the ACA’s health insurance exchange without expense to the tribe. Many people have health insurance for the first time and that’s why, Goggles says, the tribe has no intention of giving up.

“We are optimistic about finding a fix to this problem that the IRS regulations creates,” Goggles says. “We’re gaining support through Indian Country and will look at all our options in moving forward.”

The Wind River Casino and Resort, owned by the Northern Arapaho, currently employees over 600 people. It’s the largest employer in Fremont County.

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