Bill would protect interim IHS funding

Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would authorize advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service by providing two-fiscal-year budget authority to cover gaps between appropriation lapses.

The IHS Advance Appropriations Act of 2019, introduced on Sept. 26 by Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Tom Udall, D-NM, and Dan Sullivan, R-AK, would amend the Indian Health Service Improvement Act, while ensuring that the federal government fulfills its trust obligation for health care services in tribal communities nationwide.

Their senators expressed concern for government shutdown that cause gaps in appropriations for the HIS. Additionally, short-term continuing resolutions cause significant uncertainty in administering programs and make planning more difficult, they said.

The legislation is supported by the Alaska Native Health Board.

Murkowski cited the government shutdown earlier this year as one that created “anxiety and a ripple of negative impacts throughout a variety of sectors. Health care delivery through HIS was unfortunately caught up in the mix” she said. “The IHS should be afforded the same budgetary certainty and protections afforded to the VA, the other federally funded provider of direct health care,” she said. Advanced appropriations would ensure the HIS is treated with parity and given the fiscal certainty needed, she said.

The measure also has 10 Senate co-sponsors, all Democrats.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Betty McCollum, D-MN.