Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) introduced H.R. 7362, the Pay Our Doctors Act, to fund the Indian Health Service (IHS) for the next fiscal year in the event of a government shutdown. This bill will ensure that tribally-run hospitals and Urban Indian Clinics receive the funding they need to pay their doctors and keep their doors open.
“Congress needs to stop putting Native Americans’ health care in the crossfire of political spending fights,” stated Mullin. “The Indian Health Service is not only terribly underfunded, but it is one of the only health care agencies that doesn’t receive mandatory or advanced appropriations. Native Americans deserve quality, reliable health care services as promised in treaties with the federal government. My bill, which would provide a stable source of funding for IHS through fiscal year 2019, is a good start.”
During a government shutdown, tribally-run hospitals and Urban Indian Clinics do not receive annual funding, which is typically distributed in a lump sum at the beginning of a fiscal year. Hospitals and clinics are forced to make ends meet by using any remaining rollover funds from the previous year. If no funds are available, hospitals and clinics are forced to furlough or lay-off staff.
Government shutdowns and continuing resolutions (CR) create instability and an administrative disaster for IHS staff. With funds from either a CR or a regular appropriation, IHS headquarters allots funds to individual area offices. Area offices generate lump sum payments to tribes. Enacting short-term CRs puts a heavy administrative burden on IHS and prevent tribes from investing their annual lump sum payments in interest-bearing accounts.