Health Insurance Exchange Hires Tribal Analyst

Jim Roberts, policy analyst with the Indian Health Board, is hopeful Sonciray Bonnell will be able to make the hard policy calls

August 22, 2012 -- To bridge the gap between tribal members and the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange, Sonciray Bonnell has been hired as a tribal health community analyst. She spent the past ten years with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board as its health resource coordinator.

“Now the question is whether she’ll be making the hard policy calls or will become just a public relations person,” said Jim Roberts, policy analyst with the Indian Health Board. “She’s too new and it’s too early to tell so we’ll have to wait and see how much policy guidance ability she’ll have to make some decisions, which is what we need.”

At the same time, Roberts commended the Exchange for hiring Bonnell. Of the ten states around the country that have tribes, Oregon is the only one that’s hired someone to head up policy issues regarding tribal health, he said. “This is a model that should be replicated elsewhere.”

For her part, Bonnell is getting involved with communications, policy issues and customer service at the Exchange and also intends to visit with the nine tribes in Oregon. Approximately 116,000 Native Americans live in the state.

“I’m here to make sure we’re at the table and that our communities are addressed as the exchange is built,” she said. “Having someone in house working with the staff every day provides a little more confidence to the tribes, that they’re being heard and are part of the process. We have an amazing mission in front of us.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about the concerns of tribal health advocates, click here.

Image for this story by s_falkow (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr.

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