On December 17, H.R. 6535, the Coverage for Urban Indian Health Providers Act introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), passed the House by voice vote. H.R. 6535 would expand Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage to urban Indian health organizations, creating parity within the Indian Health System and giving urban programs a desperately needed boost in resources as they suffer shortages, closures, and financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian Health System, commonly referred to as the ITU system, is made up of the Indian Health Service (IHS), Tribal health programs, and urban Indian organizations (UIOs). UIOs provide culturally competent care for the over 70 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who live in urban centers. Despite this, UIOs are the only branch of the ITU system not currently eligible for coverage under FTCA. As a result, these frontline health programs spend up to $250,000 annually on liability policies – funds that could otherwise be spent directly on patient care.
“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 Rep. Gallego, Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples. “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 and I call on the Senate to send it to the President’s desk immediately.”
“Urban Indian Health Centers 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 lawsuits. I want to thank Congressman Gallego and Senators Lankford and Smith for working with me on this bipartisan legislation that will improve health care for Native Americans.”
Rep. Gallego, Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples.
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