How the US Indian Health Service Works

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American Indians and Alaska Natives are entitled to federally funded health care under treaties negotiated between tribal nations and the United States government.

“Our treaties say we are entitled to health care provided by the federal government,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, status member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and executive vice president of the Seattle Indian Health Board. “This is meant to be quality health care provided to registered members of federally recognized tribes with free health care to the extent that we have already paid for it with the land on which the United States is located.”

But according to a 2018 report by the Independent and Bipartisan Civil Rights Commission, the U.S. government has not adequately funded these programs, leaving many indigenous communities without the capacity to provide quality care.

“If we don’t get the resources we need, it will always be a struggle for us to start tackling the underlying health issues that were created as a result of colonial oppression and the suppression of our health and our economic prosperity. in Indian country, ”said Echo-Hawk. “Until we see full funding for the Indian health service, we will still be struggling to do more than just meet the immediate needs of our people.”

In an emailed statement to CNBC, the Indian Health Service said it had received “historic investments” of more than $ 9 billion since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic “to address inequalities in longstanding health suffered by Native Americans and Alaska Natives in ensuring a comprehensive public health response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. ”

Watch the video above to find out how federally funded health care for Native Americans and Alaska Natives works, and why many activists and experts would love to see the system reformed.


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