On October 10, 2013, Senators Murkowski (R-AK); Begich (D-AK); Udall (D-NM); and Schatz (D-HI) introduced S 1570, legislation that would authorize advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service (IHS). The goal is for the IHS and tribal health care providers to have adequate advance notice of the amount of federal appropriations to expect and thus not be subjected to the uncertainties of late funding and short-term Continuing Resolutions (CRs). S 1570 is the companion bill to HR 3229 which was introduced on October 1 by Representatives Young (R-AK) and Lujan (D-NM). S 1570 was referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.
The ongoing partial government shutdown due to Congressional inability to enact fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations certainly highlights this precarious budget situation. If IHS was receiving funding on an advance appropriations schedule in the manner that the Veterans Administration (VA) medical accounts do, its FY 2014 appropriations would have been enacted as part of a FY 2013 appropriations act and the IHS and tribal health care providers would not be faced with being in a new fiscal year with no knowledge of what amount of funding to expect. Instead, the IHS has had to furlough some employees and have others working on a currently unpaid status. Tribal health care providers are similarly affected. Like the VA, the IHS and tribal organizations provide direct, federally-funded health care services to a specific population; HR 3229/S1570 would bring parity to the IHS with regard to the federal appropriations process.
Our firm has been working with the Maniilaq Association on the issue of IHS advance appropriations, and the effort has expanded to consist of a coalition of national Indian organizations including the National Indian Health Board, National Congress of American Indians, and the United South and Eastern Tribes. A press release from Senator Murkowski’s office and the text of S 1570 (the same terms as HR 3229) are attached.
Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the IHS advance appropriations bills.