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Press Release

Committee Discusses Challenges, Opportunities for Improving Tribal Health Care

  • IP Subcommittee

Today, the Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on the challenges and opportunities for improving health care delivery in tribal communities. Subcommittee Chair Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) issued the following statement in response:

“The Indian Health Service, or IHS, is the primary agency charged with providing health services to native people and tribal communities throughout the United States. For over a decade, reports have indicated that inadequate oversight of healthcare continues to hinder the ability of IHS to provide an adequate quality of care despite continued increases in the agency’s budget. This substandard care has, in part, led to life expectancies for a native person that are five and a half years less than the average American.

“This troubling and unacceptable statistic must be corrected. Although the IHS declined to send a representative to today’s hearing, I will expect a full accounting of what steps are being taken by the agency to improve health outcomes for our native and tribal populations.”


The federal government holds responsibility for providing health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) through treaties and federal statutes. The Indian Health Service (IHS) is the primary agency charged with providing health services to AI/AN communities throughout the United States. AI/ANs currently have much lower health outcomes than the average American, including lower life expectancy and disproportionate disease burdens.

IHS has long been plagued with issues of substandard medical care, high staff vacancy rates, aged facilities and equipment, and unqualified or predatory health care staff. Many of these issues first came to national attention after a 2010 Senate report on the failings of IHS facilities in the IHS’s Great Plains Area and have shown themselves to be persistent and systemic issues within IHS. Today's hearing explored solutions which can be implemented to modernize the IHS system and raise the standard of care across IHS facilities.