I am a proud Native American and member of the Navajo Nation. I also serve as the Native American liaison manager for beWellnm, the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. This role gave me the opportunity to meet with tribal leaders across the 23 nations, tribes and pueblos of our state and experience the beautiful culture, traditions and people of each community. I am dedicated to enriching the lives of New Mexico’s Native Americans, and I’m so grateful that so many leaders allowed me to speak with them about the importance of health and wellness.

To me, a happy community is a healthy community, and I want to help everyone across our state lead a long, healthy life. One important tool for that is health insurance. Many Native Americans believe their Indian Health Services eligibility is enough to keep them healthy, and in some cases, it might be. However, what many Native Americans don’t know is that if they’re not covered through Medicaid or an employer plan, health insurance coverage through beWellnm can be an affordable complement to the care that IHS provides.

That’s something I learned firsthand a few years ago. While I was hiking in the Sandia Mountains, I broke my ankle and had to be rushed to the emergency room. If I wouldn’t have had a health insurance plan through beWellnm, I could have been faced with thousands of dollars in medical bills. Thankfully, because of that plan, I didn’t have to worry about whether Indian Health Services would have the funding to cover the cost for my care.

That day, I was grateful I had health insurance because of my emergency, but health insurance is more than just a back-up plan — it’s a necessity. There are services, like baby delivery, acupuncture, chiropractic care and more, that Indian Health Services doesn’t cover. The good news is that those services and much more are covered under a qualified health plan through beWellnm!

Now, I spend my days sharing my story and helping Native Americans across the state find and enroll in a health plan that works for them. I understand it can seem like health insurance is too expensive, but I’m here to tell you that that’s not true. Through beWellnm, many Native Americans qualify for cost-sharing reductions, which in many cases can cover the cost of copays and deductibles when receiving care through a qualified health plan.

If all of that seems complicated — it’s OK! There are a number of enrollment counselors (including myself) available to help at no cost. We can help you find a plan that fits your lifestyle and budget, as well as any cost savings for which you may qualify. We are available to answer any and all questions you have throughout the process.

You can call us at 833-862-3935 anytime throughout the year to get help enrolling in health insurance. Native Americans aren’t subject to the Open Enrollment period and can enroll in health insurance through beWellnm all year long.

I encourage everyone in the Native American community to look into their health insurance options. It can help keep our communities healthy for years to come.

Juliet Yazzie is the Native American liaison manager for beWellnm.

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