The business arm of the Navajo Nation plans to contract with Molina Healthcare, Inc., to offer Medicaid managed care as part of a partnership between New Mexico, tribal officials and the insurer, AIS Health reported.
The program would be the first-ever Medicaid managed care program dedicated solely to the health care, cultural needs and geographic needs of native populations living in the Navajo Nation, according to Molina.
The new managed care plan — which Navajo Nation-owned Naat’aanii Development Corporation hopes to launch in 2020 — could cover up to 75,000 Navajos who live in New Mexico.
“This is very much led by the Navajo Nation,” says Sandeep Wadhwa, M.D., chief health officer and senior vice president of government programs for Solera Health.
The deal appears to be the first between a managed care company and an organization that is owned by a Native entity, Wadhwa, who is not affiliated with Molina, tells AIS Health. “There is a dimension of self-determination by the tribe and by American Indians that hadn’t been realized previously,” he says.
Under Medicaid, state-contracted managed care plans may be an option for American Indians and Alaska Natives, but this is the first time a tribal nation has contracted with a state Medicaid program, Wadhwa adds.
Approximately 100,000 Navajos live in New Mexico, and around three-quarters of them are eligible for Medicaid, according to the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD). Navajos experience a heavy disease burden, with a mortality rate that’s 31% higher than the overall U.S. rate, HSD figures show.
If this arrangement with Molina and the Navajo Nation helps to improve health outcomes and reduce costs, there may be other tribes and tribal nations that consider similar initiatives, Wadhwa says.