U.S. Senator Mark Begich welcomed details today from the Indian Health Service (IHS) that summarized the number and amount of contract support cost (CSC) payments made to Alaska tribes for delivery of health care to Alaska Natives and a commitment to a quicker resolution to these claims in the future. He also expressed resolve to keep a close eye on further negotiations taking place in Alaska next week.
In a letter from IHS Acting Director Yvette Roubideaux outlining settlement resolution data, IHS has settled 22 claims with Alaska tribes resulting in payments of $193 million. Settlement offers have been accepted in 45 cases with 15 settlement offers still pending. The news comes just a day after Alaska’s Southcentral Foundation (SCF) reached a historic settlement with HIS for a one-time $96 million payment to SCF to make amends for IHS’s contractual underpayments over the past 17 years.
Number of Claims
|Arctic Slope Native Association||
|Ketchikan Indian Corporation||
|Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation||
|Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation||
“This is welcome news, and is one more step on the road to a permanent, long term solution,” said Begich. “I will continue to fight for full compensation for these claims and intend to pressure the federal government to hold up its end of the deal and honor these long overdue contracts with tribes. While I’m pleased with these results so far, I’m not giving up until we achieve a long-term fix.”
Begich represents 229 federally recognized tribes and has been one of the most outspoken and diligent leaders in Congress on tribal heath issues, including his work on contract support costs. His work in the Senate includes playing an instrumental role in securing full contract support cost (CSC) funding in 2014 and he expects Congress to fully fund CSC in 2015.
“This issue has been a priority for me since I took a seat on the Senate Indian Affairs and Appropriations committees,” said Begich. “I’ve worked hard to ensure the federal government honors contract support costs obligations to tribes. I’m glad that Director Roubideaux is responding to my efforts since I put her on notice that this record of past underpayments to tribes was unacceptable. I will not hesitate to dial up the heat again in order to achieve results. The federal government has a trust responsibility to provide health care for this nation’s First Peoples and it’s about time it steps up to pay legal and contractual obligations to those tribes that choose to take over this responsibility through self-governance contracts and compacts.”
Begich has not shied away from calling out the Obama Administration after it proposed to set individual caps to contract support costs on a per tribe basis to limit the amount of funds tribes and tribal heath care providers would receive. Sen. Begich has led multiple bi-partisan efforts in the Senate to press the Administration, President, and the Appropriations Committee on the significance of this issue.
Begich’s efforts on this issue were highlighted during an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network where he expressed his frustration with the slow moving settlement process:
“I will continue to push against moving her (IHS Director Roubideaux) forward because I want to see some more results here. I want these long-standing obligations on contract support cost payments that are owed to tribes settled. They are starting to pick off a few, but at the rate they go, it could take 100 years. I want to see some acceleration on those settlements. I’m feeling like they may announce something soon. And if they do, I will probably tell the new chair that I don’t have a problem with moving Dr. Roubideaux forward. But I’m not interested in moving her forward until I see some strong results. Then I will feel better that there is a real advocate in that position.”