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Mullin Bill Increasing Resources for Urban Indian Health Organizations Heads to President Trump’s Desk

Today, legislation sponsored by Congressmen Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Tina Smith (D-MN) increasing resources for Urban Indian Health Organizations (UIHOs) heads to President Trump’s desk after passing both the House and Senate. H.R. 6535 will expand Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage to UIHOs, redirecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in liability costs to patient care.

The Indian Health System, commonly referred to as the ITU system, is made up of the Indian Health Service (IHS), Tribal health programs, and UIHOs. UIHOs provide culturally competent care for the more than 70 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who live in urban centers. H.R. 6535 would create parity within the ITU system by extending FTCA coverage to UIHOs, who currently are forced to divert precious financial resources away from health care in order to foot exorbitant liability costs.

“Urban Indian Health Organizations play a critical role in providing health care to Native Americans, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mullin said. “Our bill ensures they are covered by the FTCA so they won’t have to use their limited resources to cover costly liability insurance. I want to thank Congressman Gallego and Senators Lankford and Smith for working with me on this bipartisan legislation to improve health care for Native Americans.”

“The Coverage for Urban Indian Health Providers Act not only undoes the unfair and impractical disparate treatment of urban Indian organizations under FTCA, but it provides a much-needed infusion of resources to these programs, including Native Heath in my District, that are on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Gallego. “We cannot afford to leave urban Indians without access to care during and beyond this public health crisis. I am grateful to my colleagues for their support of this bill.”

“Urban Indian health providers should not have to pay more for their liability insurance simply because they are in an urban area. This bill will ensure Tribal health providers can focus funds on care, not court costs,” said Lankford. “This bill helps clear up disparities in the law that unfairly limit Urban Indian Health Organizations because they cannot currently access liability protection available to other health entities. That omission takes healthcare dollars away from Tribal members. I’m glad we can fix this error of omission for our Tribal members in Oklahoma and nationwide.”

“This bipartisan legislation will create parity within the Indian Health System so urban Indian health organizations can spend their money on efforts to provide care rather than on legal fees,” said Smith. “This legislation is especially important during the pandemic, which has hit Minnesota’s urban Indigenous communities hard and has forced urban Indian health organizations to experience financial hardship or even close operations. I'm glad to have worked in a bipartisan way to bring some relief to urban Indian health organizations.”

“Having Congressman Mullin introduce and push for FTCA coverage for Urban Indian Organizations like the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is a game changer,” said Robyn Sunday-Allen, Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic. “Because of his work, we will no longer spend upwards of $250,000 to insure our providers. If enacted, we will be able to use those valuable resources for direct patient care. The parity this bill provides only strengthens Indian Country and those lives that are dependent on our care. Congressman Mullin is commended for his unwavering support of UIHOs and the patients we serve.”

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