American Indian/Alaska Native Tribal Health Organizations File $1B Lawsuit Against Indian Health Service Over Funding Shortfall
More than 300 Alaska Native and American Indian tribal health organizations are suing HHS' Indian Health Service for nearly $1 billion, alleging that the agency has inadequately funded administrative costs over the last 15 years, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The 334 organizations originally filed the lawsuit in a New Mexico federal court in 2001. IHS is obligated to provide health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives as a part of laws and treaties established between the tribes and the federal government, according to Ron Demaray, who manages contract support costs at IHS. At issue is the amount of funding the agency should provide to organizations to cover administration costs, such as insurance, building maintenance and auditing services, according to Demaray. Last year, IHS paid tribal contractors $1.6 billion, including $264 million for administrative costs. However, contractors incurred an additional $70 million in administrative costs that were not covered by IHS because Congress did not appropriate the additional money. Demaray said that IHS "can only pay what Congress authorizes us to pay," adding that the agency is "contracted to provide what Congress provides to us." Lloyd Miller, an attorney representing tribal organizations, said the federal government must honor its contact with the tribes regardless of how it allocates funds. Miller is pursuing class-action status at the New Mexico federal court (Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, 2/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.