Lawmakers, American Indian Health Officials Call For Budget Increase To Indian Health Service’s Contracting Program
Inadequate funding to the annual budget for the Indian Health Service's Contract Health Service program is restricting access to essential health care services for American Indian patients, lawmakers and witnesses said on Thursday at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The CHS program purchases health care services from non-IHS providers for IHS beneficiaries when care from an IHS facility is not available. Committee Chair Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and witnesses, which included state health care administrators and tribal health care officials, said the current budget of $579 million for the CHS program should be more than doubled to $1.3 billion. Dorgan said, "We must fully fund, we must adequately fund and we must make Contract Health Service work."
Linda Holt, chair of the Northwest Portland Indian Health Board, said there is a "dichotomy between areas that have [IHS] hospitals and those that are CHS dependent." Holt noted that in the Portland, Ore., area -- where there are no IHS hospitals -- CHS expenses account for 30% of the IHS office there. "CHS-dependent areas do not receive a fair share of IHS resources," she said.
IHS Director Robert McSwain said he supported a call for an increase in funding for both IHS-managed care services and services under the CHS program. McSwain said, "The fact is our health system in total is direct ... As much as we can provide care means we don't have to buy care" (Cooley, CQ HealthBeat, 6/26).