The Purchased/Referred Care program at the IHS was designed to cover such situations. But the agency, in its statement, said claims for payment must be reviewed and must meet certain requirements before they can be paid out. "IHS is committed to paying all eligible Purchased/Referred Care claims submitted in accordance with applicable requirements," the statement read. "Medical referrals are not a guarantee for payment. The PRC program must review the claim to make the determination for IHS approval of payment. All PRC eligibility requirements must also be met." In hopes of improving services to more than 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, Congress just approved an appropriations package that includes a record amount for the IHS. The bipartisan bill provides $6.047 billion for the agency, a 4 percent increase from current levels. “Our Interior bill provides key investments for Indian Country, funding education, housing, infrastructure, and other priorities to help ensure healthy and prosperous Native communities,' Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in reference to the portion of the H.R.1865 that funds the IHS and most other Indian programs.
Purchased/Referred Care, however, will not be seeing any major increases once President Donald Trump signs the bill, as he is expected to do. Funding for this program is remaining level, at exactly $964.8 million, according to a report accompanying the spending package. [See Page 116] "We cannot solve everything at once, but we can make a positive, real and lasting difference in the lives and health of our patients," Weahkee said in his opening statement at his confirmation hearing. "And we can make what some say is impossible, possible." Weahkee, who has been serving as the highest-ranking official at the IHS since June 2017, received bipartisan support at the hearing last week, including from Tester, who predicted full by the U.S. Senate. But the lawmaker said the nominee needs to do more to address the needs of tribal citizens, like the ones back in his home state of Montana. "This isn't on you -- it's on the agency in general over decades and decades and decades," Tester said. "They don't believe there's anybody in IHS that's fighting for them." Earlier this year, Weahkee visited the Blackfeet Nation to apologize for the agency's role in a scandal that was also brought up repeatedly during the confirmation hearing. Stanley Patrick Weber, a non-Indian, was convicted of abusing young male patients on the reservation following a trial in federal court in Montana. Weber worked at the Blackfeet hospital as a pediatrician between 1992 and 1995, according to a sentencing memorandum. In September, Weber was convicted in federal court a second time, for abusing young male patients on the Pine Ridge Reservation in neighboring South Dakota, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. During the hearing last week, Weahkee said the IHS has implemented a number of changes in response to the scandal. “Those types of activities are absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated," said Weahkee, who vowed to set a "tone at the top" in which transparency and openness are key values at the IHS. "We cannot risk any harm to our patients."
A recent visit by Indian Health Service National Director, Michael Weahkee (l) and Blackfeet Community Hospital CEO, Garland Stiffarm (r).Posted by Blackfeet Indian Health Service on Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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