Indian Health Service budget and 'high risk' tribal programs on agenda for upcoming hearings

Chris Buchanan, the acting director of the Indian Health Service, addresses the winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., on February 15, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Lawmakers who control the federal government's spending levels are continuing to focus on Indian Country.

Just this week, members of the House Appropriations Committee have heard from dozens of Indian Country leaders about health care, education, housing, law enforcement and other needs in their communities. The testimony, which started Tuesday morning, concludes late Wednesday afternoon.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee will soon be getting a chance to direct some of the tribal concerns to the executive branch. A hearing next week focuses on the budget of the Indian Health Service, which tribal leaders fear will be cut drastically at the insistence of President Donald Trump.

"An 18 percent cut to IHS would have a real and lasting impact on Cherokee Nation’s Health Services, the country’s largest tribally-operated health care system," Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation told the subcommittee on Tuesday morning. The president, in his fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint, has called for an 18 percent cut at the Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the IHS.

But the budget isn't the only issue on the agenda. The subcommittee will follow up with a hearing on "high risk" programs at the IHS and at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Both hearings take place Wednesday, May 24, in Room 2007 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The only witness for the IHS budget hearing is Chris Buchanan, the "acting" director of the agency.

The witness list for the "high risk" hearing includes three officials from the Government Accountability Office:
Melissa Emrey-Arras
Director, , Education, Workforce and Income Security Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Kathleen King
Director, Health Care Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Frank Rusco
Director, Natural Resources and Environment Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Notices:
Budget Hearing – Indian Health Service (May 24, 2017)
Oversight Hearing – High Risk American Indian and Alaska Native Programs (Education, Healthcare, Energy) (May 24, 2017)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Improving Federal Management of Programs that Serve Tribes and Their Members (February 15, 2017)

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