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Native leaders appointed to national health advisory boards

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Native American leaders across the country were appointed to a 15-member national advisory board for Medicaid and Medicare issues by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is a department within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Tribal Technical Advisory Group (TTAG) will serve as an advisory body to CMS, TTAG will serve as an advisory body to CMS, providing expertise on policies, guidelines, and programmatic issues affecting health care delivery provided by various titles within the Social Security Act or any other health care program funded by CMS.

The TTAG will provide opportunities for collaboration between federal officials and elected tribal leaders, as well as representatives of the National Indian Health Board, National Congress of American Indians, and Tribal Self-governance Advisory Committee. The group will hold an initial conference call in January with plans to hold the first group meeting in February.

Twelve of the members were selected by their respective area office along with an alternate while the remaining three were appointed from each Washington association including the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Health Board, and the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee.

Navajo Nation leaders are eyeing the benefits of the group's formation. Since 1997, the Navajo Nation has been working towards establishing its own Medicaid Agency.

"Right now, tribal members are forced to deal with three separate eligibility criteria from three different states," Anselm Roanhorse Jr., Navajo Division of Health executive director, said. "If the tribe is able to establish this office, then we will be the first tribe to create our own Medicaid Agency."

TTAG was approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in September. TTAG was established for three reasons: enhance the government-to-government relationship; honor federal trust responsibilities and obligations to American Indian and Alaska Natives; and increase understanding between CMS and tribal health programs including those administered by IHS.