The Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), the primary legal authority for the provision of health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives, was made permanent when President Obama signed the bill on March 23, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The authorization for appropriations for the IHCIA expired in 2000 and Congress had not reauthorized it since then. The act has now been made permanent and has no expiration date.
“We are grateful to President Obama for his unwavering and longstanding support for the enactment of the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act, which is critical to modernizing and improving the health care we provide to American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “This administration is intent on honoring the obligations of our government-to-government relationship with American Indian tribes, including the promise of adequate health care.”
Enhancement of the authority of the Indian Health Service includes the responsibility to facilitate advocacy and promote consultation on matters relating to Indian health within the Department of Health and Human Services, and the ability to recover costs from third parties to tribally operated facilities, and allows a tribe or tribal organization carrying out a program under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act and an urban Indian organization carrying out a program under Title V of IHCIA to purchase coverage for its employees from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The IHS provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 1.9 million of the nation’s estimated 3.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.