Indian Health Service Reform

 VII. Key Issues: Regulation & Reform >> C. Health Reform >> Components of Health Reform >> Public Sector Programs >> Indian Health Service Reform (last updated 2.7.16)

The Policy Problem

Even though the U.S. has an obligation to provide American Indians with free health care on reservations, there is an enormous disparity that exists in both the overall health status and access to health care of AI/ANs.

The system is severely underfunded:

Senator Byron Dorgan (D, ND) “believes the problems are systemic within the embattled agency: incompetent staffers are transferred instead of fired; there are few staff to handle complaints; and, in some cases, he says, there is a culture of intimidation within field offices charged with overseeing individual clinics.”


  • Health Care for Native Americans ‘Horrifying’. “‘Don’t get sick after June’ is a common refrain in the Native American community—mainly because the Indian Health Service federal agency is “severely underfunded,” says a rep for an advocacy group, per NBC News. In fact, witnesses at a Senate hearing Wednesday pleading for funds said conditions are so bad that Native Americans are dying before they get the health care they need. Those living on reservations are eligible for free health care from the feds thanks to an 18th-century contract, but because of a lack of funds, health facilities that Native Americans go to are often neglected and filled with poorly trained staff, witnesses say. ‘What we’ve found is simply horrifying,’ Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said at the hearing. ‘The information provided to this committee … can be summed up in one word: malpractice.’” (Newser, 2.4.16)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *