Representatives Gallego, Mullin introduce bill amid COVID-19 pandemic to ensure timely, accessible care for Native American veterans

Pictured: U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-7).(Photo: rubengallego.house.gov)

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Bipartisan Proper and Reimbursed Care for Native Veterans Act introduced last week

News Release

Office of Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07)

Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced H.R. 6237, the bipartisan Proper and Reimbursed Care (PRC) for Native Veterans Act, last week. The Proper and Reimbursed Care 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.

H.R. 6237 clarifies that Veterans Health Administration is responsible for reimbursing not only direct care to Native veterans provided by a Tribe or Indian Health Service, but specialty and contract care provided through a Tribe or Indian Health Service. Reimbursing Indian Health Service and Tribes for purchased and referred care is absolutely vital in making sure Native veterans have timely, affordable access to the care they need and that Tribes and Indian Health Service have sufficient resources to treat patients and respond to public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Native American veterans deserve to be able to access timely, affordable, and culturally competent care regardless of where they receive it. That is part of the federal government’s promise to them as veterans and as Native Americans,” said Representative Gallego, Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples. “Our bill will keep that promise and provide a critical boost for severely under-resourced Indian Health Service and Tribal facilities to fight the coronavirus outbreak in Indian Country. This is a commonsense solution that helps Native Veterans and addresses our current health care crisis, and I look forward to its swift passage through Congress.” 

“Our nation’s Native American veterans deserve access to quality, affordable health care and this bill helps deliver on that promise,” Representative Mullin said. “Indian Health Service and tribally-run health facilities are already severely underfunded, but are often the only option for care for Native American veterans. Our 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 look forward to working with my colleagues to get the change made and get our Native veterans the care they need.”

Statement from Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis:

“It is important that our veterans are not forced to travel far to get testing and treatment during this COVID-19 pandemic. They need to be able to get access to health care locally and not travel to the nearest Veterans Administration facility. This bill will allow veterans to stay closer to home, and I thank Congressmen Gallego and Mullin for paying attention to our veterans and their health care needs right now.”  

Statement from Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma: 

“We appreciate Congressman Mullin’s introduction of this bill, which will greatly assist us in delivering high quality health care to our native Veterans. 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. This bill would clarify that Veterans Administration must reimburse Indian Health Service and Tribal health systems who are serving Veterans, even when they are referred out for specialty care. This would reduce red tape that our Veterans currently endure by allowing our native Veterans the ability to continue to choose us as their healthcare system, even if they need specialty services.”

Statement from Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community President Martin Harvier:

“Our Community deeply values the men and women who serve our nation, and we owe it to them to make sure that they don't have to jump through hoops just to receive the healthcare benefits they have earned. We commend Chairman Gallego and Congressman Mullin for offering this common sense legislation, and look forward to working with them to make sure it becomes law without delay.” 

Statement from National Indian Health Board (NIHB): 

“The Indian health system is chronically and pervasively underfunded, placing American Indian and Alaska Native communities at increased risk of resource shortages during health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Maximizing 3rd party reimbursements to Indian Health Service and Tribal sites furthers the fulfillment of the federal Trust responsibility for healthcare, and helps ensure that Indian Health Service and Tribal sites have the financial resources needed to protect the lives of our nation’s First Peoples.”

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(Image: Office of U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego)
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