Tester Calls for Permanent, Qualified Indian Health Service Director

Senator to Trump: People’s Lives Depend on this Agency and its Success

(U.S. Senate)—U.S. Senator Jon Tester is calling on President Donald Trump to nominate a permanent and qualified Director of the Indian Health Service.

Tester emphasized to Trump that the Indian Health Service has been without a permanent director for more than three years, which has caused the agency to fall short of its mission to provide quality care for more than two million Native Americans.

“Without permanent leadership in place, it makes it extremely difficult for the agency to carry out its mission of delivering quality health care to Native Americans—a trust and treaty obligation of the federal government,” Tester wrote in a letter to Trump. “It is critical that this position be filled to provide the much needed stability and leadership to the agency that so many people depend on.”

Robert Weaver, who was nominated by the President to lead the Indian Health Service, withdrew his nomination last week after reports surfaced that he exaggerated his work experience and left his previous employer in a difficult financial position. Weaver’s withdrawal forces the agency to continue operating under interim leadership.

Tester is demanding that the President consult with Tribal governments before nominating a new Indian Health Service Director to ensure that the nominee is qualified for the position and prepared to successfully fulfill the agency’s mission.

“I urge the administration to engage with Tribes on filling this important position and making sure the nominee is qualified, effective, innovative, and experienced to take on this role,” Tester added. “People’s lives depend on this agency and its success.”

Tester blasted Indian Health Service Interim Director Michael Weahkee last year after the Senator specifically asked him seven times if the President’s proposed budget decreased funding for health care workforce recruitment and retention at Indian Health Service facilities. Weahkee’s response left Tester with the Senator’s “hair on fire.”

Tester also successfully urged the Administration last year to exempt many critical Indian Health Service employees from the federal hiring freeze, which disproportionally impacted Native American communities. Tester also introduced the Urban Indian Health Parity Act to ensure Urban Indian Health Service clinics receive a comparable Medicaid reimbursement rate for treating Native Americans.

Tester’s letter to President Trump is available HERE.