Tester: Proposed investments in Indian Health Service a step in the right direction

Administration’s proposed budget mandates the full funding of Contract Support Costs

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today highlighted increased investments in the Administration’s proposed Indian Health Service (IHS) budget and urged that more can be done to improve health care services in Indian Country.

“The Indian Health Service has been chronically underfunded. This proposed budget is a step in the right direction to improve the health of families and communities in Indian Country,” Tester said.

At an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Administration’s IHS budget for 2016, Tester applauded the proposal that mandates permanent full funding of Contract Support Costs to help roll-back the damaging effects of sequestration.

Contract Support Costs are funds used by tribes to administer IHS services and Bureau of Indian Affairs initiatives. The Indian Self-Determination and Education Act requires the full funding of Contract Support Costs, but in the past Congress has failed to provide sufficient funds forcing tribes to deliver services without the proper funding and causing a reduction of program services, including health care.

“Over the past decade tribal leaders and the federal courts have said we have to fund Contract Support Costs,” Tester said in his statement for the record. “This budget provides for full funding of those costs, while also proposing to make that funding mandatory in the future so they no longer cut into program and service dollars. This is a good thing that I hope all my colleagues can agree upon.”

Tester also supports the increased investment in the proposed budget for tribal health infrastructure for communities in Indian County, including an additional $100 million for construction of health care facilities over last year’s budget.

During the hearing Tester called on IHS to strengthen partnerships with the VA and tribes to better coordinate services and avoid duplicating costs while serving Native American veterans.

Overall, the Administration’s proposed IHS budget for fiscal year 2016 is nearly 10 percent higher over the enacted budget of fiscal year 2015.

Last year Tester held a field hearing in Billings to look at the current state of the Indian Health Service.