Navajo Nation to create ‘one-of-a-kind Medicaid program’

Window Rock, Ariz. • The Navajo Nation is seeking to become one of the first Native American tribes to create a managed health care entity.

The Naat'aanii Development Corporation, a business arm of the Navajo Nation, recently announced that it plans to contract with Molina Healthcare to work toward a managed health care offering under New Mexico's Medicaid program.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Daniel Tso, chairman of the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, said the new entity "will be a one-of-a-kind Medicaid program" designed to improve access and quality of health care on the largest Native American reservation.

Navajos get care at lower rates and experience worse outcomes compared with average Medicaid populations, Tso said.

About 75,000 Navajos living in New Mexico are eligible for Medicaid.

Under provisions established by the federal government, each state is allowed to structure and tailor Medicaid programs. In 2017, New Mexico's Medicaid program received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to collaborate with Indian Managed Care Entities, including a pilot project with the Navajo Nation.

New Mexico state health officials estimated that the proposed entity could generate up to $468 million in annual payments to the Navajo Nation if 50,000 people enroll.