Jody Guardipee, a Patient Benefits Coordinator at Blackfeet Community Hospital in northwest Montana, knows firsthand that educating tribal members about their health care choices is key to building healthy families and healthy communities. Jody talks to patients daily on the benefits of enrolling in Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace.
Since the first Affordable Care Act education and enrollment event on the Blackfeet reservation nearly four years ago, Jody has seen a change in the ways the Indian Health Service and other state programs are reaching out to American Indians and Alaska Natives about their health coverage options. Jody is a part of that change. She helped train other IHS Patient Benefits Coordinators on the different coverage applications and made numerous presentations to tribal councils and tribal programs about the special protections for American Indians under the ACA.
In addition to her demanding workload as Patients Benefits Coordinator, Jody took on the added responsibility of becoming a Certified Application Counselor through training offered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Jody became an expert on health care coverage plans and programs.
Jody even trained non-Native ACA Navigators and Certified Application Counselors on Indian-specific plans, special benefits coverage, and overall customer service when helping tribal members sign up for coverage. She has played a statewide key role in helping non-Native enrollment assisters understand the Indian health care process and challenges tribal members face when it comes to their health care. Jody’s influence, knowledge, and leadership has resulted in many American Indians signing up for an ACA Marketplace plan or Medicaid. Jody is witness to many success stories.
Jody’s hard work, passion, and insight on educating and enrolling tribal members in health coverage sometimes goes unrecognized. Yet, recently a tribal member approached her, gently reached for her hand and thanked her for helping him enroll in Medicaid. Jody smiled and offered words of encouragement. Jody is also a success story.
Ms. Dorothy A. Dupree, a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, is the Director of the Billings Area Indian Health Service. Ms. Dupree provides leadership to the Billings Area and oversees the delivery of health care to more than 70,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives on seven reservations in Montana and one in Wyoming.