Many tribal members know that as enrolled citizens, they are entitled to the benefits provided by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation as well as services provided by other tribes in the surrounding areas. Well known amongst these services is the access to Indian Health Clinics. But once the doctor’s appointment concludes, some patients find themselves facing steep bills to pay for items such as dentures, eye glasses and other medical devices.
In the 1970s, the tribe established the Health Aid Foundation in an effort to provide some financial relief for those items. It was part of a program that split tribal funds with 50 percent for the Health Aid Foundation and 50 percent for education funding. Today, CPN’s Health Aid Foundation is run by Amber Brewer, a 15 year tribal employee and the foundation’s coordinator.
“We have more than 14,000 tribal members eligible, but we end up serving about 200 a month,” said Brewer. “Some people feel like it is welfare, others have said they don’t want to deal with filling out an application and some just don’t know they’re eligible. We are here to help, but people have to be proactive to utilize our service.”
The foundation’s services are only open to tribal members born by December 31, 1976. Those members are eligible for reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the cost of the device. Each individual has a $750 limit per year. Though if they have insurance plans that cover prosthetic devices, the Health Aid Foundation will pay 75 percent of the remaining balance on that total with a limit of $750 for the year.
To secure reimbursement, eligible members must get an itemized statement of the medical device or equipment from a vendor or prescribing physician. That itemized statement along with a Health Aid application must be submitted to the foundation’s office for approval. Within four to six weeks, tribal members who have applied should hear whether the Health Aid Committee approves or denies it.
“Our biggest challenge is helping people understand that we do not cover 100 percent of their costs, and we never have,” explained Brittany Sturm. “Sometimes people get frustrated by that, but ultimately when they think about the total costs they would incur without Health Aids, they’re happy. For us, it’s nice being able to help.”
“It helps tribal members out, many who are elders on fixed incomes,” said Brewer. “In other circumstances, they couldn’t afford these items. But it also serves tribal members who aren’t able to get access to an Indian clinic. Helping cut their medical costs is another way of the tribe helping out even those who aren’t in the immediate community.
If you’d like to know more about Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Health Aids Foundation, please visit their webpage at www.potawatomi.org/services/health/health-aid-foundation. For any questions, tribal members are encouraged to contact Amber Brewer:
Mailing address: 2307 S. Gordon Cooper Dr., Shawnee, OK 74801