Chris Buchanan, the acting director of the Indian Health Service. Photo: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Indian Health Service reform bill up for first hearing on Capitol Hill

A bill to reform the Indian Health Service is getting its first hearing on Capitol Hill.

S.1250, the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act, targets long-standing management, staffing and transparency issues at the agency. Key provisions address hiring and discipline, patient wait times and recruitment of more professionals.

"The long history of failures at IHS are unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said last month as he introduced the bill.

As a former chairman and current member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Barrasso has singled out the Great Plains Area, a region that includes Nebraska and South Dakota, as one of the worst in Indian Country. In 2015 and 2016, an unprecedented four facilities in the two states were sanctioned for serious lapses in patient care.

Two years later, the Omaha-Winnebago Hospital in Nebraska, still lacks certification, which has left the facility without a key source of revenues.

"I just come here yet again with no good news -- we're not certified, we're pushing it back further," Victoria Kitcheyan, the treasurer for the Winnebago Tribe, told lawmakers at a hearing on funding needs last month. "Frankly, I'm tired of telling you the same thing over and over again."

Kitcheyan will be testifying on the bill alongside Chris Buchanan, the "acting" director of the IHS, and other health experts. The witness list for S.1250, which is one of three on the agenda at the hearing on Wednesday afternoon, follows:
Rear Admiral Chris Buchanan
Acting Director
Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Victoria Kitcheyan
Tribal Council Treasurer
Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Winnebago, NE

Dr. Joseph P. Crowley
American Dental Association, Cincinnati, OH

Mr. Max Stier
Partnership for Public Service, Washington, DC

The hearing takes place immediately following a business meeting at 2:30pm Eastern in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Legislative Hearing to Receive Testimony on the Following bills: S. 1250, S. 1275 (June 13, 2017)

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