News Release

National Council of Urban Indian Health

Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 6535 to extend Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage to urban Indian organizations (UIOs), which would put a stop to having to divert scarce resources away from health care to foot exorbitant insurance costs. This bill was passed by unanimous consent under suspension of the rules and will now be referred to the Senate for further consideration.

“We applaud the House, especially Representative Ruben Gallego and Representative Markwayne Mullin, for their steadfast efforts to help urban Indian health workers get coverage like their other Indian Health Service and tribal counterparts. We urge the Senate to move quickly to pass this law before the end of this Congress. As we battle this pandemic that is devastating Indian County, this will be critical to save Native lives and will increase available health care services,” said Francys Crevier (Algonquin), National Council of Urban Indian Health CEO.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that across 23 states, cumulative incidence rates of lab-confirmed COVID-19 among American Indians/Alaska Natives are 3.5 times higher than for non-Hispanic Whites.1 Also, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 hospitalization among American Indians/Alaska Natives were 4.7 times higher than for non-Hispanic Whites. As this pandemic devastates Indian Country, urban Indian organizations have been forced to make extremely difficult choices – facing competing priorities and expenses, like increased PPE and renovation costs, in addition to very costly malpractice insurance. As of November, "the Oklahoma City Indian Health Service Area now has the highest total number of cases" and the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is one of the urban Indian organizations that pays the highest annual rate for medical malpractice insurance. If provided insurance parity with Indian Health Service and tribal facilities, this urban Indian organization alone could direct up to an additional $250,000 to patient care at a time when increased access to care is needed most.

This legislation has broad bipartisan support in both chambers and is endorsed by Indian Health Service. National Congress of American Indians also has a standing resolution supporting this legislation, Resolution #PDX-20-038, "Supporting Extension of Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) Coverage to Urban Indian Organizations."

Next Steps

H.R. 6535 will now be referred to the Senate for further consideration. On December 4, 2020, National Council of Urban Indian Health and the National Congress of American Indians sent a letter to Congress to urge them to pass this bill before the end of the year and will continue to work with the Senate to encourage swift passage.

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National Council of Urban Indian Health - logo 2020