Mullin to co-chair task force created to audit IHS

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/23/2017 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
5/23/2017 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – Cherokee Nation citizen and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., and Rep. Raul Ruriz, D-Calif., will co-chair the new Indian Health Service Task Force, which has been charged with auditing the federal government’s Native American health system.

According to a May 18 email from Mullin’s office, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., announced the IHS Task Force’s creation as well as Mullin and Ruiz as its co-chairmen.

The bipartisan task force is comprised of 14 members both on and off the committee.

The working group will review the health care delivery system for American Indians and Alaska Natives, inform policy makers on the state of IHS and public health programs that serve Native populations and identify ways to ensure IHS is best serving the needs of those who rely on it.

“The Indian Health Service is an important program that often flies under the radar. It’s imperative that members have a thorough understanding of the IHS and the work it does,” Mullin and Ruiz stated in the email. “We look forward to beginning our work to raise awareness for this important issue among our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and identify ways we can work together.”

Walden and Pallone stated the task force presents an opportunity for a wide-ranging group of House Republicans and Democrats to learn more about the work the IHS does.

“We look forward to kicking off our work this week to explore ways to ensure American Indian and Alaska Native communities have access to quality health care,” Walden and Pallone stated.

Along with Mullin, Ruiz, Walden and Pallone, the other task force members are Reps. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Gregg Harper, R-Miss.; Tom Cole, R-Okla.; Kristi Noem, R-S.D.; Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.; Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Dan Kildee, D-Mich.; and Betty McCollumn, D-Minn.

According to its website, the IHS is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for providing health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“The provision of health services to citizens of federally recognized tribes grew out of the special government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. This relationship, established in 1787, is based on Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and has been given form and substance by numerous treaties, laws, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders,” the website states. “The IHS is the principal federal health care provider and health advocate for Indian people, and its goal is to raise their health status to the highest possible level. The IHS provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to 567 federally recognized tribes in 36 states.”

According to the HHS website, the fiscal year 2017 budget for IHS is $6.6 billion, an increase of $404 million over FY 2016. Since 2008, under former President Obama, funding for IHS increased by 53 percent.

According to President Donald Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget, there is no direct budget number for IHS. It is only listed as part of the overall HHS budget request of $69 billion, a $15.1 billion decrease.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, in 2015 the IHS per capita expenditures for patient health services were just $3,136, compared to $8,517 per person for health care spending nationally.

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