Senator Jon Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is backing bipartisan legislation that will secure Indian Health Service (IHS) funding a year ahead of time, letting the agency plan for the future and avoid last-minute budget cuts like those caused by sequestration.
By knowing how much it will have to spend, IHS will have more certainty to distribute resources and hire staff. If Tester’s bipartisan bill had been law earlier this year, funding for IHS would have been protected from October’s disastrous government shutdown. Advanced funding would also allow tribal health administrators throughout Indian Country to serve their patients without wondering if necessary federal funding would come through.
“Good health starts with good health care and this bill is a big step in making sure Native Americans get the support they need,” Tester said. “We have a solemn responsibility to Native Americans and that starts with ensuring that IHS has the funding and certainty it needs.”
IHS provides comprehensive medical and environmental health services for about two million American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Tester, a member of the Indian Affairs Committee since he joined the Senate in 2007, recently pushed U.S. Interior Department officials to work with members of Indian Country to move forward with the department’s Land buy-Back Program.
Tester’s bipartisan bill is supported by Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in October.
Tester’s Senate version, S. 1570, is available online here.