Insurance giving Native Americans more health care choices
Mike Lamebull brushed white paint across long two-by-fours as he sat in the shade at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church outside Rocky Boy's Agency, thinking about the constant pain he feels but shouldn’t have to.
As he often does, Lamebull, 61, wondered how his life would have been different if he could have had double-knee surgery 12 years ago when his doctor told him he needed it. Most Indian Health Service clinics, including those in Montana, have operated at Level One for years, meaning there’s only enough federal funding to pay for treatments that are matters of life or limb. The doctor’s referral request to send Lamebull for surgery was denied. The pain became unbearable for the lifelong construction worker even with lighter duty as a project manager. Six years ago, he had to quit.
“There’s free health care for Indians: That’s bulls***,” the 61-year-old said.