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Tribes in Montana and Wyoming air complaints about IHS care

Filed Under: Health | National
More on: 113th, gao, ihs, jon tester, montana, scia, senate, wyoming, yvette roubideaux

The Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital in Crow Agency, Montana. Photo from IHS

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a field hearing on the Indian Health Service on Tuesday.

Tribal leaders in Montana and Wyoming aired their concerns about the Billings Area of the IHS. They said their members are misdiagnosed, mistreated and forced to endure long waits for substandard care.

"There's a group of doctors and administrators that sit down and say life or limb,” Darrin Old Coyote, the chairman of the Crow Tribe, told the committee, KULR reported. “That goes to show, don't get sick after June because the money's running out."

Yvette Roubideaux, the agency's acting director, said additional resources will help address quality of care services. She noted that IHS receives less money per capita ($3,000) than the Veterans Affairs Department ($7,000) and Medicare ($12,000).

“What really keeps me up at night is the growing need and the lack of resources,” Roubideaux testified, The Billings Gazette reported. “Comparing our funding to the federal employees health benefits program, we’re only funded at 57 percent of the per capita amount that they’re funded at.”

But tribal leaders said the Billings Area also suffers from management problems. The director of the office, who is a member of a Montana tribe, resigned after just 18 months on the job, saying it was nearly impossible to reform the system from within.

"The budget remains considerably top-heavy at the Billings Area office. For example, in fiscal year 2013, 66 percent of the $10 million-plus budget went to administration and only 15 percent went to health care services,” Chairman Old Coyote said, the Gazette reported

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the committee, has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the Billings Area.

Get the Story:
As tribal health care woes mount, feds get blame (AP 5/27)
Tribal Leaders Talk About Health Care Issues (KULR 5/27)
IHS woes are money-related, director says; tribal leaders say too much spent on administration (The Billings Gazette 5/28)
IHS patient: 'It’s not quality health care, it’s whatever care' (The Billings Gazette 5/25)
Scrutiny of Indian Health Service not unique to Montana (The Billings Gazette 5/25)

Committee Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "The Indian Health Service: Ensuring the IHS is Living Up to Its Trust Responsibility." (May 27, 2014)

Relevant Documents:
Crow Tribe Press Release | Crow Legislature Resolution

Related Stories:
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on IHS (5/26)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne share personal IHS stories (5/26)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules field hearing on IHS (05/21)
Editorial: Scrutiny needed for Indian Health Service in Montana (05/08)
Lawmakers request GAO investigation of IHS office in Montana (5/5)

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