The National Indian Health Board is a dedicated advocate in Congress on behalf of all Tribal Governments and American Indians/Alaska Natives. Each weekly issue contains a listing of current events on Capitol Hill, information on passed and upcoming legislation, Indian health policy analysis, and action items. To view all of our legislative resources, please visit
June 14, 2022
News From Capitol Hill
Senators Demand Clarity and Oversight on American Rescue Plan Funds

On Monday, June 6th, fourteen Senators on the Senate Finance Committee signed a letter requesting that the U.S. Government of Accountability (GAO) to evaluate and report on use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA provided $350 billion of COVID-19 relief funding to States, localities, Tribal governments, and territories. The ARPA provided $5,484,000,000 in funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS) which included: 
  • $2.340 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, tracing, mitigation, and workforce expenses 
  • $600 million for vaccine distribution 
  • $1.5 billion for COVID tracing/testing/Personal Protective Equipment 
  • $240 million for Public Health Workforce 
  • $2 billion for lost third-party medical billing reimbursements 
  • $500 million for clinical health services and Purchased/Referred Care 
  • $140 million for improving health information technology and telehealth access 
  • $84 million for Urban Indian health programs 
  • $420 million for mental and behavioral health 
Responsible for oversight of the ARPA funding, the Senate Finance Committee calls for the Department of Treasury - who is responsible for administering the funding - to provide clarity and transparency in the implementation of ARPA funding. The Finance Committee has had several discussions with the Department of Treasury that lead to the conclusion that there is "insufficient" reporting information and details available to the public in which Treasury is taking with "causal indifference".

Thus, the Committee requested the GAO to review and assess the administration of the ARPA funds and has outlined 11 questions for the GAO to address in their oversight. To read the Senate Finance Committee's letter, view here. To read NIHB's analysis on ARPA funding view here.  
Fort Defiance To Be Reimbursed for Contract Support Costs After 90 Percent Slash To Funding  

On May 26, 2022, the United States District Court of New Mexico ruled in favor of the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital Board (FDIHB) to be reimbursed for contract support costs (CSC). The Court ordered Indian Health Service (IHS) to reimburse FDIHB $16.6 million in monthly payments for CSC for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. The ruling found that a 90 percent reduction of contract support costs is causing "irreparable injury" to Fort Defiance. Detrimentally harming Fort Defiance's inability to provide essential health services to patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Defiance was forced to reduce the number of contract nurses because the reduction in CSC would have covered the salaries of permanent staff members. Fort Defiance asserted the Agency was "inspired" by the Cook Inlet decision.  
Fort Defiance Indian Health Board, Inc.  
The Fort Defiance Indian Health Board (FDIHB) is a Tribally-charted nonprofit healthcare organization that owns and operates a hospital campus in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and runs a health clinic in Sanders, Arizona. The FDIHB serves more than 47,000 people and most of the Navajo Nation. Under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA), the Navajo Nation designed Fort Defiance as a 'Tribal organization' for the purpose of contracting with IHS to run and operate certain health programs.  
Since 2010, the FDIHB has successfully been in three-year contracts with IHS. During contract renewal proposal negotiation that began in August of 2021, FDIHB submitted FY22 'Annual Funding Agreement' which included a proposal of indirect CSC of $18,405,910. Replying back, IHS then stated the correct indirect CSC rate should be $18,515,007. In December of 2021, IHS replied with a partial declination that denied the full indirect CSC funding and to only fund at $1,887,739 – a 90 percent reduction rate. Pointing to prior years of funding, IHS indicated that earlier indirect CSC had included duplicative funding amounts and FY22 indirect CSC should therefore be reduced. FDIHB had been proposing CSC using an approved methodology. IHS did not state an issue with the methodology in the first rounds of contract negotiation.  
After IHS reduced indirect CSC by 90 percent, the FDIHB filed a lawsuit against IHS in February 2022. While the outcome of the lawsuit is still pending, FDIHB then asked the Court to either permanently restore its full indirect CSC of $18.5 million or temporarily cover that sum until the decision of the lawsuit. The Court held a hearing on April 26 and a decision was made on May 26. In this decision, the judge stated that is very likely IHS, in its partial declination, violates the ISDEAA and that the erroneous 90 percent reduction rate claim is "likely to succeed" amid the lawsuit. This is on the basis that IHS may not retroactively reduce the 'secretarial amount' of CSC in years prior to the initial contract term and that the same methodology to calculate CSC rate was used during the recent and prior contract negotiation proposals. There was no substantial and material change from recent to prior CSC rates to justify a 90 percent reduction. Thus, while still waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit, the judge ordered to comply with Fort Defiance's FY22 renewal contract proposal of $18,515,007 in indirect CSC – to reimburse the loss of the 90 percent reduction in the amount of $16,627,268 on a prorated monthly basis.  
Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc.  
The Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. (CITC) represents eight federally-recognized Tribes in Alaska. Under ISDEAA, CITC has a contract with IHS to operate an alcohol recovery program. Opened in 1992 in Anchorage, Alaska, the center has expanded over the years from residential treatment to including outpatient facilities and capabilities. In 2014, CITC received $2 million from IHS to run the program. CITC proposed to change the agreement of the contract to add $400,000 in annual facility costs to be funded as contract support costs. Although IHS declined this proposal, CITC sued IHS and was ordered to reimburse Cook Inlet in 2018.   
Taking a turn of events, in August of 2021, the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. V. Dotomain ruled that council's facility costs are not CSC and overturned the 2018 ruling. Since the facility costs are what the IHS would normally incur if they were to run the program, they are not eligible for reimbursement as CSC. The case points back to the council's first contract negotiations in 1992 where the facilities costs that included rent and a partial salary for a facilities coordinator were paid from the secretarial amount – not from CSC.  
Indian Health Service Contract Support Cost Amendment Act 
In response to the Cook Inlet decision, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) took formal action to support a legislative fix for contract support cost administration to correct the decision. NIHB and Tribal organizations wrote to Congressional leadership to urge the adoption of an amendment to ISDEAA.  

On April 7, 2022, Representative Tom Cole (R-OK-4) introduced a bill to amend the ISDEAA that would secure existing Tribal contract support cost reimbursements. The bill titled Indian Health Service Contract Support Cost Amendment Act, H.R 7455, restores the status quo of CSC in light of the Cook Inlet decision.  
NIHB applauds the work of Representative Cole and his work for Tribal nations to continue providing healthcare without disruptions and is committed to overseeing the passage of this bill. To read the letter NIHB sent to Cole's office on April 26 sharing our support for H.R 7455, view here
Meet Your Member
Representative Julia Letlow

Rep. Letlow is currently serving her first term representing Louisiana's fifth Congressional district and is the state's first Republican woman elected to congress. Letlow serves as the Congressional representative for the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe and the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians. Her top policy areas focus on expanding broadband infrastructure, agriculture, education, and child care. Letlow sits on the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs and the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies of the Committee on Appropriations.

Indian Healthcare Legislation
Rep. Letlow introduced a bill in August 2021 that would expand the geographic boundaries of the purchased/referred care delivery area for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. Specifically, it would include the Harris and Brazoria counties of Texas so that the Tribe would be able to use its purchase/referred care funds from the Indian Health Service to provide healthcare to its members living in the Houston, Texas area. The bill has had no movement since its introduction.
Indian Health Services Allocates First Rounds of Funds Bringing Safe Water to Tribal Communities

On Tuesday, May 31, 2022, the Indian Health Service (IHS) announced plans for improving water and sanitation systems. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funded the Indian Health Service Sanitation Facilities Construction Program at $3.5 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 through FY26 which amounts to $700 million in each fiscal year. Thus, IHS announced its allocation spending plans for FY22 of $700 million.  
The IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction program identified 71,000 American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) homes with water and sanitation deficiencies. The goal is to raise those homes to a Deficiency Level of One which means a sanitation system that complies with all applicable water supply and pollution control laws and only needs routine replacement, repair, or maintenance needs.  
Of the 71,000 AI/AN homes, IHS categorized the homes into Tiers. Tier One projects are considered ready to fund because planning is complete. IHS will allocate $581 million for project construction costs for 475 Tier One projects and will allocate $60 million for the design and construction document creation activities related to Tier One projects. Tier Two projects have a level of their engineering assessment complete, have a well-understood deficiency, and recommended solution. Tier Three projects have deficiencies identified but are still in the planning phase and identifying solutions. Currently, there are 661 Tier Two projects and 361 Tier Three projects of which $33 million will be allocated for Tier Two and Tier Three projects.  
Regarding the sanitation projects, the IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on May 4. The purpose of the hearing entitled "Setting New Foundations: Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for Native Communities" was to hear from Tribal leaders and administration officials regarding the implementation status and how it is benefiting Native communities thus far.  
In her opening statement, Ms. Fowler applauded the historical funding of the IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction program which was funded at $3.5 billion. At the end of 2021, 1.9 percent of AI/AN homes lacked water supply or wastewater capabilities, and 29 percent of AI/AN homes require some form of sanitation improvement. Those homes that are geographically remote require higher capital costs than those homes with similar infrastructure needs. Homes without access to adequate water service are associated with higher hospitalization rates for pneumonia, flu, and respiratory viruses. Likewise, higher illnesses are associated with a lack of adequate water services to wash hands. Thus, Fowler purported IHS support is an integral component of the prevention of diseases outlined. 
Fowler noted how the duration of the sanitation and water projects could be extended by several years. Under the IIJA funding, no more than three percent is to be used for salaries, expenses, and administration purposes; however, that three percent allocation will most likely extend the duration project timeline because it cannot be used for Tribal technical assistance – it is limited to federal purposes. Thus, possibly extending the average duration of sanitation projects from 3.6 years to several years. Moreover, IHS's shortage of staffing and technical capacity will also contribute to the extended timeline of projects if IHS does not procure more support.  
Congressional Spotlight