News Release

January 11, 2008

Contact: Jo Kilgore, Public Information Manager, (405) 522-7474.

Children in Indian Boarding Schools Gain Health Care Access

OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 300 uninsured students at Indian boarding schools in Oklahoma became qualified for SoonerCare on Dec. 1 after a rules change passed by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and signed by Gov. Brad Henry.

The schools are the Chickasaw Children’s Village, Ardmore; Eufaula Dormitory, Eufaula; Jones Academy, Hartshorne; Riverside Indian School, Anadarko; and Sequoyah High School, Tahlequah.

About a third of the more than 1,100 Indian children attending the five boarding schools lack comprehensive health care coverage. Although many of them live in dormitories or residential facilities in Oklahoma for most of the year, they have been considered out-of-state residents and thus ineligible for SoonerCare (Oklahoma Medicaid).

The amended rule extends SoonerCare eligibility to students living in IHS, BIA or tribal-controlled peripheral dormitories or schools. Most of the students are expected to receive primary health care at IHS or tribal facilities, which will draw a 100 percent match in federal Medicaid funds. Some of the children will need services that are not available through IHS, however, and so state funds of about $300 per child per year will be needed to cover those expenses.

“This change will allow us to expand access to health care to 342 students,” said Trevlyn Cross, OHCA’s Indian health manager. “We hope this will increase their participation in preventive services like child health screens and immunizations. And because the average Oklahoma boarding school student is 14, we can reach them at an undoubtedly important formative period where healthy lifestyles are learned.”

Oklahoma is the first state to formally extend coverage to Indian boarding school children, she added.

For more information about SoonerCare, visit OHCA’s Web site at www.okhca.org.

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