Published July 13, 2017
IHS has not been consulted on TrumpCare, subcommittee seeks information on impact of Medicaid changes
WASHINGTON — On Wednesday U.S. Senator Tom Udall, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, told IHS officials that the Trump administration’s IHS budget proposal is “wholly insufficient to effectively serve communities in dire need of health care services.” During a hearing on the IHS’ fiscal year 2018 budget, Udall also questioned IHS officials about how TrumpCare, Senate Republicans’ proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, would decimate Medicaid and obstruct access to life-saving health care in Indian Country.
While Udall’s subcommittee secured a crucial 5 percent funding increase for fiscal year 2017 in the most recent omnibus appropriations bill, the administration’s draft budget proposal called for $300.5 million in cuts to IHS, a “complete departure” from the progress made to rebuild the IHS budget, Udall said. IHS is already severely underfunded: according to recent data, IHS spent just $2,849 per patient in 2013, compared with a national average of of $7,535 per patient and Medicare’s $12,042 per patient. “This proposal would not provide the resources needed for the health and well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives. It is wholly insufficient to effectively serve communities in dire need of health care services,” Udall said. “Passing the president’s budget would mean less money for inpatient services, preventive health programs, drug addiction treatment, mental health programs and specialty care. It would mean fewer resources to recruit and retain a qualified workforce and to address already underfunded facility infrastructure needs.”
“My experiences have taught me that health care in Indian country suffers from generations of underfunding,” Udall continued. “It’s disheartening to see this administration put forward a budget that would force whole Tribal communities to fully return to a cruel system of health care rationing. ‘Life or limb’ is no way to run a hospital, and no way to promote healthy Native communities and families.”
Udall pressed IHS officials for answers on the disastrous implications of TrumpCare and the massive proposed cuts to Medicaid for IHS’ ability to provide more services and further stretch limited resources. In New Mexico alone, more than 132,000 Tribal members are enrolled in Medicaid. “For decades, Medicaid has been a crucial program for fulfillment of the federal government’s trust responsibilities. Now is not the time to lose ground on the progress we have made,” Udall said. “We know that Tribal communities can thrive when they have adequate access to health care. We know that Tribal health outcomes improve when access to quality, preventative care is expanded…like we’ve seen over the last few years with Medicaid expansion and third-party billing revenue increases.”