Press Releases

Rep. Porter Joins Ranking Member Grijalva to Introduce Legislation Extending Federal Health Benefits to Tribal Community Employees

Bill provides comprehensive medical coverage to essential workers serving indigenous communities

Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) and House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today announced the introduction of H.R. 2376, which will extend federal employee health benefits (FEHB) to employees of Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).

“Tribal education and health care professionals are essential workers, who serve hundreds of thousands of American Indian and Alaska Native students and families,” said Rep. Porter. “These employees deserve the same health benefits available to the rest of our federal workforce. I’m proud to work with Ranking Member Grijalva to get our indigenous communities the comprehensive medical care they need, including vision and dental coverage.”

H.R. 2376 increases health equity and addresses health disparities for tribal employees. Although employees at UIOs and TCUs are considered public service employees, they are largely ineligible for both FEHB and dental and vision insurance, creating recruitment and retention issues for these essential institutions. TCUs serve around 300,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students across the country, providing affordable higher education centered in strengthening Native cultures, languages, and traditions. Similarly, UIOs help provide medical care to urban populations outside of tribal jurisdictions, representing more than 70% of all American Indian and Alaska Native communities. 

“Employees at Urban Indian Organizations and Tribal Colleges and Universities are providing an invaluable service to better public health and education in Indian Country—they deserve to receive the same benefits as other public service employees,” said Grijalva. “This bill provides a simple, but significant legislative solution to establish parity for these critical entities, while also upholding the federal trust responsibility. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to act quickly on this legislation.”

Original cosponsors of H.R. 2376 include Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI). The bill is supported by the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) and American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).

Congresswoman Porter consistently supports tribal communities through her work on the House Committee on Natural Resources. She’s worked to hold the government accountable to promises it made to deliver health care to Native Americans. Last year, Rep. Porter held a roundtable discussion with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and tribal leaders from across Southern California to promote equal opportunities for indigenous communities. She has also introduced legislation to increase mental health resources for states, tribes, and other organizations across the country. 

Read the full bill HERE.