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IHS Appeals Ruling That Health Care Is Treaty Obligation To Rosebud Sioux Tribe

Lawyers for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the U.S. Department of Justice argued on Thursday, March 18, before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Rosebud tribe sued Indian Health Services and the Department of Health and Human Services in 2016, claiming that IHS health care is so inadequate, it violates treaty obligations.

The tribe prevailed, in part, in a lower court, and the feds appealed.

Victoria Wicks has more of this story for SDPB.

From preview coverage: The Rosebud Sioux Tribe sued IHS and HHS in 2016 after the Rosebud IHS Hospital's emergency department went on "divert status." The tribe says patients were advised at the time to seek emergency services in off-reservation towns about 50 miles from Rosebud.

The hospital also fell out of compliance with Medicare and Medicaid at about the same time.

In its suit, the tribe held that the United States has a duty through the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 to provide quality health care. The tribe also claimed the government has an obligation through the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to raise the quality of care to the highest level.

Federal Judge Roberto Lange ruled that the 1868 treaty does require the U.S. to provide competent physician-led health care. But he said the tribe overstates the government's obligations under other federal statutes.

IHS and HHS denied having any fiduciary duty to provide health care for tribes, and they appealed Judge Lange's judgment.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.