Quechan Tribe loses bid to force US to pay for better health care

The Fort Yuma Service Unit in Yuma, Arizona, is the oldest Indian Health Service facility in the nation, with buildings that date to 1852 and 1963. Photo from Quechan Tribe

The Quechan Tribe can't force the federal government to pay for adequate health care, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week.

The tribe sued the Department of Health and Human Services and the Indian Health Service in March 2011. The complaint noted that the Fort Yuma Service Unit on the Arizona portion of the reservation is among the oldest in the nation and poses hazards to tribal members.

But the 9th Circuit said the tribe failed to cite any laws that imposed a specific duty on the government to improve services on the reservation. An unpublished opinion, however, expressed sympathy for the cause.

"In closing, we emphasize that we appreciate the tribe’s commitment to ensuring adequate healthcare for its members, and we acknowledge the challenges faced by the tribe in ensuring such care," the April 1 decision stated. "However, the solution lies in Congress and the executive branch, not the courts."

The tribe could ask the 9th Circuit to hear the case or take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Chairman Keeny Escalanti told The Yuma Sun that he hasn't had time to sit down with attorneys to discuss the next step.

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from the case, Quechan Tribe v. US.

Get the Story:
Appeals Court dismisses Quechan Tribe health care claim (The Yuma Sun 4/7)

9th Circuit Decision:
Quechan Tribe v. US (April 1, 2015)

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