Contact: April Hale at or 505-728-0760
Tribal Leaders, Health Advocates Press Federal Agencies for More Tribal Involvement in Policymaking, Regulations
TEMCULA, Calif.—September 17, 2019—During Monday’s pre-conference day, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) hosted four federal agency tribal consultation or listening sessions at its National Tribal Health Conference where tribal leaders and health advocates put the conference theme in motion – “Health = Sovereignty” – by reaffirming that the government is obligated to uphold its trust responsibility and that Tribes must be involved in every step of the policymaking process.  

“Tribes are sovereign nations, and it is imperative that we continue to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with federal agencies to ensure that our Tribal voices are heard and realized through policies and regulations that makes sense and actually work for our Tribal communities,” said NIHB Chairperson and Great Plains Area Representative Victoria Kitcheyan. “Tribes have a collective need for quality health care, but the access and delivery may be different. It’s important for federal agencies to be reminded that not all Tribes are the same and there is not one cookie-cutter approach.”
At the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) consultation session, Tribes recommended to the new HRSA Acting Administrator Tom Engels and Operations Director of Policy and Shortage Designation Melissa Ryan that the agency establish a Tribal advisory committee to assist the agency as it implements various policies and initiatives in Indian Country, including the HRSA Shortage Designation Project and an update to its Tribal consultation policy. 
The Intradepartmental Council on Native American Affairs (ICNAA), consisting of multiple operating divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Indian Health Service (IHS), Administration for Native Americans (ANA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also held their first-ever listening session. ICNAA brought a list of priorities that included addressing the opioid crisis, human trafficking, long-term care for elders with disabilities and ending the HIV epidemic. 
Beverly Coho from the Ramah Band of Navajos and the Albuquerque Area for the National Indian Health Board requested that the Administration’s new plan and appropriations for HIV elimination “must be wholly inclusive of Tribes, and include direct funding to Tribes and Tribal organizations, especially given the high burden of HIV and viral hepatitis in Indian Country.”
In addition, Ms. Coho urged that each agency within HHS, except for IHS, ensure that at least two percent of their funding portfolio be allocated directly to Tribes, Tribal organizations and urban Indian health organizations. “It is important to note that the trust responsibility for health extends beyond IHS,” Ms. Coho added. 
Over 150 Tribal leaders, health providers, experts and advocates voiced their recommendations on the joint IHS and Veterans Administration (VA) memorandum of understanding (MOU) during the first of what is hoped to be many consultation sessions. Top recommendations included, exempt all Native veterans from copays and deductibles at the VA in accordance with the federal trust responsibility; interoperability of electronic health records between IHS, VA and the Department of Defense systems; increased telehealth services; and support for culturally-based approaches to treatment.
In the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) listening session, Tribal representatives expressed continuing concerns over state Medicaid waiver proposals that would impose work requirements for Medicaid eligibility. Medicaid block granting was also a hot topic of discussion with conversation around Utah’s 1 115 waiver that proposes Medicaid per cap payments. Should Utah’s waiver be approved, it could set unfortunate precedent for other states to follow suit. NIHB Chairperson Kitcheyan said that the states should not step in front of the federal trust responsibility.
“Federal, state and tribal relations as well as meaningful tribal consultations are essential when making decisions on behalf of Tribal communities. Our children and elders deserve health care that they can count on,” added Chairperson Kitcheyan.  
NIHB’s annual National Tribal Health Conference officially starts today with an opening plenary session where speakers will reinforce the conference theme of “Health = Sovereignty.” Learn more about the conference at:
Social media information:
  • Facebook: /NIHB1972
  • Twitter: @NIHB1
  • Hashtags: #NIHB #NTHC2019 #healthytribalcommunities #IndianCountry #Nativehealth
About the National Indian Health Board
Founded in 1972, NIHB is a 501(c) 3 not for profit, charitable organization providing health care advocacy services, facilitating Tribal budget consultation and providing timely information, and other services to all Tribal governments. NIHB also conducts research, provides policy analysis, program assessment and development, national and regional meeting planning, training, technical assistance, program and project management. NIHB presents the Tribal perspective while monitoring, reporting on and responding to federal legislation and regulations. It also serves as conduit to open opportunities for the advancement of American Indian and Alaska Native health care with other national and international organizations, foundations corporations and others in its quest to build support for, and advance, Indian health care issues.
Venue - Pechanga Casino & Resort
The Pechanga Casino & Resort is located at 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, California, 92592.

Visit their website to learn more!
Host Member Organization -
California Rural Indian Health Board
NIHB would like to thank the California Rural Indian Health Board for their collaboration and participation as the host member organization of the 36th Annual National Tribal Health Conference!
For questions regarding the conference, please email or
call 202-507-4070.
Created by the Tribes in 1972, the National Indian Health Board exists to advocate on behalf of all 573 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes to ensure the fulfillment of the trust responsibility to deliver health and public health services as assured through treaties, and reaffirmed in legislation, executive orders and Supreme Court cases.