House passes legislation to ensure care for Native American veterans
Offices of Congressmen Ruben Gallego, Markwayne Mullin
Yesterday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to ensure timely, accessible care for Native American veterans by voice vote. H.R. 6237, the Proper and Reimbursed Care (PRC) for Native Veterans Act, would require the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to reimburse the Indian Health Service (IHS) and tribally-run health facilities for purchased and referred care (PRC) used for Native American veterans. Representatives look forward to the Senate taking swift action to ensure the policy is signed into law later this year.
H.R. 6237, introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), clarifies that the VHA is responsible for reimbursing not only direct care to Native veterans provided by a tribe or IHS, but specialty and contract care provided through a tribe or IHS. Reimbursing IHS and tribes for PRC is absolutely vital in making sure Native veterans have timely, affordable access to the care they need and that tribes and IHS have sufficient resources to treat patients and respond to public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our nation’s Native American veterans deserve access to quality, affordable health care and this bill helps deliver on that promise,” Mullin said. “IHS and tribally-run health facilities are not only already severely underfunded, but also are often the only option for care for Native American veterans. This commonsense bill will greatly improve the quality of care for veterans by ensuring that those facilities are reimbursed by the Veterans Health Administration for the services they provide, including specialty care. I am glad this bill passed the House and I urge the Senate to act quickly so our Native veterans get the care they need.”
This bill would clarify that the VA must reimburse IHS and tribal health systems who are serving veterans, even when they are referred out for specialty care.
“We appreciate Congressman Mullin’s leadership to get this bill passed by the House, which will greatly assist us in delivering high quality health care to our native Veterans,” said Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “Our Choctaw veterans are courageous warriors–tvshka (tushka) in the Chahta language– who have defended this land through centuries of battles. It is a high priority for the Choctaw Nation to assist our Veterans in receiving their well-deserved benefits, including health care."
By passing the bill, the nation is one step closer to reducing the red tape that veterans currently endure by allowing Native veterans the ability to continue to choose tribal health care, even if they need specialty services, Batton explained.
“Native American communities have an incredible history of service to our nation, having fought for America in every war since the American Revolution," Gallego, chairman of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the U.S., said. "In return, it is long past time we keep our promise to Native veterans by ensuring they have access to the timely, high-quality health care that they are owed both as tribal members and as American heroes. That is why I am proud to see the PRC for Native Veterans Act pass the House today. I look forward to the Senate taking swift action to ensure this bipartisan, commonsense policy is signed into law this year.”