WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Alaska Congressman Don Young helped the House pass H.R. 5221 – the Urban Indian Health Confer Act. This bipartisan legislation, which Congressman Young cosponsored, requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to confer with urban Indian organizations (UIOs) on health care policies and initiatives for the Native populations UIOs serve. Under current law, only the Indian Health Service (IHS) is required to confer with UIOs, despite that fact that the vast majority of Indigenous Americans live and receive health care services in urban areas outside of tribal jurisdictions.
Data shows that Indigenous people experience worse health care outcomes than other Americans, with rates of diabetes, liver disease, and chronic illness outpacing any other demographic group. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of consultation between HHS and UIOs seriously impacted the vaccine rollout and caused significant delays. The Urban Indian Health Confer Act takes action to empower UIOs to take part in the federal decision-making process.
“Urban Indian health organizations play a crucial role in providing health care services to Indigenous people, including those in Alaska. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on the need for open communication channels between federal agencies as we respond to public health emergencies,” said Congressman Don Young. “I am proud to help get the bipartisan Urban Indian Health Confer Act across the finish line in the House. Through this legislation, it is my great hope that urban Indian health organizations can better serve their patients by being front and center in federal decision-making. I call on my friends in the Senate to help uphold our federal trust responsibility by passing this vital bill.”
“We are thankful for the passage of the Urban Indian Health Confer Act in the House today and particularly for the leadership of Congressman Don Young. Establishing proper urban confer policies across all HHS agencies has been long overdue and exacerbated amid the current public health crisis ravaging Indian Country. We welcome the federal government’s effort to further fulfill their trust and treaty obligation for all American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those residing in urban areas,” said Walter Murillo, Chief Executive Officer of NATIVE HEALTH and President of NCUIH