South Dakota’s representatives in Congress say an audit of Indian Health Service operations would lead to solutions for improving care for Native people.
Officials say one of the focuses of an audit would be the formula for how IHS funds different regions.
The Indian Health Service employs roughly 15,000 people. U-S Senator Mike Rounds, says out of those only 750 are doctors who actually see patients.
Rounds says that’s one of the reason’s he’s calling on federal auditors to perform an investigation into where Indian Health Service money goes, and how it is spent. Healthcare is guaranteed to Native Americans under treaty rights.
Rounds says he’s been in touch with the inspector general’s office, who, he says, has an interest in pursuing an audit of IHS.
“Part of it is, is simply bringing attention to this thing, clearly recognizing the disparities in health care we think will draw attention to the independent auditing operations that are available within the federal government,” Rounds says. “So, my first step is to request the audit. And then after that, if we need to include legislation requiring it, we will do that.”
Rounds points to legislation made after an audit of Veterans Affairs, to improve services there.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem agrees an audit of IHS is needed. However, she says congress shouldn’t have to wait for an audit to pass the IHS accountability act of 2016.
“We know some of the problems that we are dealing with today and so that’s why we can be building consensus on those reforms and pushing them through so we can get them to the president’s desk as soon as possible,” Noem says. “I really am extremely concerned that we are losing lives daily, potentially, because we don’t have IHS fixed. And, so, while the audit is extremely important I also think we need to keep on pushing to get reforms in place as soon as possible.”
Noem says one of those reforms is retention incentives to keep doctors at IHS hospitals longer, as well as the funding formula for health care.