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Yvette Roubideaux to leave Obama administration after six years






Yvette Roubideaux at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in December 2014. Photo from IHS

Yvette Roubideaux, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who served as director of the Indian Health Service for six years, is leaving the Obama administration at the end of this month.

Roubideaux was confirmed to a four-year term as director of the IHS in May 2009. One of her biggest achievements was helping secure a permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as part of the landmark Affordable Care Act in March 2010.

Her tenure, though, was consumed by battles over contract support costs in self-determination contracts. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court once again confirmed that the IHS must pay tribes the extra costs.

The ruling prompted a slew of settlement talks. As of January, the Obama administration had resolved $679 million in past claims with tribes, Indian organizations and Alaska Natives.

The IHS also announced that it would be fully supporting contract costs in its budgets. But by that time, Roubideaux's confirmation to a second term as director was being held up in the Senate over the issue.

As a result of the Senate's inaction, Roubideaux took on another role at the Department of Human and Health Services. She began serving as a senior adviser to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in February because she could no longer hold the title of "acting" director of the IHS.

"Dr. Roubideaux’s passion and commitment to improve health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives has been evident in her time at the Indian Health Service," Burwell said in a note to HHS employees. "She has been key in the President’s efforts to increase resources at IHS, not just for the hospitals and clinics but also for purchased and referred care and the contract support costs that support tribal self-governance."

Robert McSwain, a member of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, now serves as acting director. He served one term as director during the Bush administration and had Roubideaux's support.

"I have full confidence in [McSwain's] ability to be able to lead the agency while my nomination is in progress," Roubideaux told the National Congress of American Indians in February, when she was still anticipating that she would continue serving under President Barack Obama.

The full note from Secretary Burwell follows:
Colleagues,

I am writing to share the news that after six years of outstanding service, Dr. Yvette Roubideaux has informed me that she is leaving the Department at the end of June.

Dr. Roubideaux has been a valued member of the HHS leadership team since the beginning of the Obama Administration. She was a member of the HHS Transition Team and was later nominated by the President to serve as Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS) and confirmed in May 2009. In 2013, the President nominated her for a second four-year term as Director of IHS. In February, she transitioned to her current position as Senior Advisor to the Secretary for American Indians and Alaska Natives when it was determined that a provision in a 2009 Appropriations Act limits the time that certain nominees can serve in an Acting position.

Dr. Roubideaux’s passion and commitment to improve health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives has been evident in her time at the Indian Health Service. She has been key in the President’s efforts to increase resources at IHS, not just for the hospitals and clinics but also for purchased and referred care and the contract support costs that support tribal self-governance. During her tenure as Director, we also saw the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and Dr. Roubideaux made major contributions to implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act that impact American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Dr. Roubideaux has been instrumental in developing systems and structures to ensure IHS’s ability to fulfill its mission well into the future. Under her leadership, IHS made significant progress on increasing access to quality health care by increasing the number of sites that are implementing patient-centered medical homes from 38 in 2009 to 172 in 2014, and achieving 100% of all IHS hospitals with obstetric services to receive national designations as Baby Friendly.

Please join me in thanking Dr. Roubideaux for her service and commitment to the Department and the American people, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors.

Sylvia M. Burwell

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