CN receives Indian Health Services settlement funds
TAHLEQUAH – At the Jan. 17 Rules Committee meeting, Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo reported that the tribe was to receive settlement funds from the federal government. The settlement between the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service recoups contract support cost totaling more than $8.2 million.
The money was for unpaid support costs for 1998 in correlation to underpayments of more than $31 million, including interest and underpayments, between 2005 and 2013 and as a result of the Supreme Court case Cherokee Nation, et al v. Leavitt.
According to the 2004 Supreme Court opinion, the “Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act authorizes the Government and Indian tribes to enter into contracts in which tribes promise to supply federally funded services that a Government agency normally would provide.”
It also states the act “requires the government to pay…a tribe’s ‘contract support costs’ which are ‘reasonable costs’ that a federal agency would not have incurred, but which the tribe would incur in managing the program…”
However, in that timeframe the opinion states the reasoning the government did not pay the contract support costs as promised is because Congress had not appropriated enough funds.
“In the first case, the Tribes submitted administrative payment claims under the Contract Disputes Act of 1978, which the Department of the Interior (the appropriations manager) denied. They then brought a breach-of-contract action,” the opinion states. “The District Court found against them, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed. In the second case, the Cherokee Nation submitted claims to the Department of the Interior, which the Board of Contract Appeals ordered paid. The Federal Circuit affirmed.”
Nimmo said the tribe had to cover the IHS contract costs that were denied by using CN General Fund dollars.
“There were questions about whether or not half of it will go to the newly created Sovereign Wealth Fund because that law says that half of all settlements will go there,” Nimmo said. “This money…the reason it all goes to the General Fund is because it was improperly expended. And I say improperly not in the sense that we did anything wrong, but we should have, in 1998, we should have gotten this money from the federal government to support IHS contracts. Because we didn’t, we had to spend general tribal dollars to support those IHS contracts. So this money goes into basically replenish tribal dollars that were spent to support federal contracts.”
Nimmo added that the Tribal Council is able to appropriate the recouped funds however it deems necessary.
“The $8.2 million settlement will go into the tribe’s General Fund, where it will help provide the expanded and improved health care services our citizens deserve.” Nimmo said. “Going forward, we expect contract support costs to be funded in full as designated by treaty and federal trust responsibility.”