Assembly Subcommittee Hearing Addresses Health Coverage at American Indian Casinos
Leaders of several American Indian Tribes at an Assembly subcommittee hearing on Tuesday defended their labor practices and criticized a report released last month that found employees of a casino operated by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians enroll their children in public health insurance programs because they cannot afford dependent coverage, the AP/Oakland Tribune reports (Werner, AP/Oakland Tribune, 4/2). According to the report, compiled by the researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles, 46% of lower-income employees of the Agua Caliente casino in Riverside County enrolled their children in Medi-Cal or Healthy Families between October 2002 and January 2003. The tribe provides health insurance for casino employees, but many cannot afford dependent coverage, which costs $2,880 per year, the report said (California Healthline, 3/18). About six Agua Caliente casino employees testified at the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services hearing. The tribe did not send a representative to the hearing, but Anthony Pico, chair of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, said, "It's hard for me to understand why tribal casinos have been singled out from the thousands of employers that struggle to deal with the costs of providing health care." Agua Caliente Tribal Chair Rich Milanovich last week said that the casino provides "good coverage" and has switched from an HMO to a preferred provider organization at the request of employees who asked for "more flexibility" in their health insurance, the AP/Tribune reports (AP/Oakland Tribune, 4/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.