An Indian Health Service facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo: U.S. Department of Energy
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Mary Annette Pember: Indian Health Service still lacks a permanent leader




The Indian Health Service has entered another year without a permanent leader but just who should be in charge? Independent journalist Mary Annette Pember takes a closer look at a vacancy that was supposed to be filled by Robert Weaver, a citizen of the Quapaw Tribe whose qualifications have come into question:
The already beleaguered Indian Health Service (IHS), a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that is charged with providing health services for members of Native American tribes, has never received enough money from the federal government to do its treaty-mandated job. With such an entrenched history of inadequate funding, the agency is predetermined to fall short on many fronts—underscoring the need for its leader to be both informed and public-health focused.

And yet, President Trump’s pick for the agency’s next leader, Robert M. Weaver of the Quapaw Tribe, is alarming for a variety of reasons, leaving many to wonder what qualifications should the director of IHS meet.

Weaver’s background is in insurance; he founded an insurance firm in 2007. He first started selling insurance to his own tribe and has since expanded selling insurance to other tribes. In a 2016 article in the Tribal Business Journal, whose advisory board Weaver sits on, he is described as the “go-to guy” for health insurance in Indian Country.

But Weaver’s overall qualifications have been called into question. The Wall Street Journal published an article earlier this month suggesting that Weaver “misrepresented his work experience” on his resume and in documents provided to a Senate committee. Some former managers at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri, where Weaver claimed to have worked from 1997 to 2006, did not remember him when contacted by reporters from the publication. Others at the hospital reportedly described him as working in an “entry-level” position, though a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) told the Journal that Weaver had said in a document to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that he worked in “supervisory and management positions.”

Read More on the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: What Does It Take to Run the Indian Health Service? Questions Surround Trump’s Pick (Rewire January 17, 2018)

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