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Noem’s IHS Bill Working Way Through Congress


Congressional testimony on Representative Kristi Noem’s Indian Health Service bill wrapped up Tuesday.

Noem’s bill aims to create tribal led boards that control IHS hospitals. Noem says the boards will improve retention, reduce wait times and update the service’s funding formula.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem says her bill seeks to change the culture within the Indian Health Service. Noem says the IHS must retain quality employees, but she says agency personnel also need to be held accountable.

However, the head of IHS, Mary Smith, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs that it’s hard to fill positions.

“We have very serious recruitment and retention problems,” Smith says. “We have lots of vacancies. And, I can tell you that personally, I am committed to quality healthcare in the Great Plains. I spend a lot of time working on that. I know we don’t move as fast as people would like.”

Smith has been the head of IHS for three months.  

Representative Noem says her bill opens the door for tribal self-governance of healthcare.  But, she says Great Plains tribes aren’t quite able to pull that off yet.

South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem

The tribal members who testified at the hearing say they support Noem’s legislation.  But some critics say the IHS needs more funding overall.

Noem says Congress is in recess in August and says there’s an urgent need to pass the legislation.

“Truly, this is a crisis situation," Noem says. "So, I’m in conversations with the chairman of the committee and also the majority leader to see about the possibility of getting it across the house floor before this congress concludes at the end of December. So, we’re pushing hard because these reforms are needed, certainly, and this bill is a comprehensive pilot program that would completely reform the way that IHS does business and delivers healthcare in the Great Plains region.”
Noem says tribal testimony piqued the interest of the house subcommittee chairman to move her bill quickly.


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