Hoeven Working to Improve Access to Health Services for Native Americans

Senator Secures Commitment from IHS Deputy Director to Address Issues in Recruitment, Retention, Accountability & Provider Reimbursement

WASHINGTON – At a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing this week, Senator John Hoeven pressed Mary Smith, Principle Deputy Director for the Indian Health Service (IHS), to address issues that reduce Native Americans’ access to quality health services. Hoeven stressed the need to reform various practices and standards at IHS to improve both the availability and quality of health care for tribal members.

“Our Native American tribes face a wide variety of issues that prevent their members from accessing adequate health care,” Hoeven said. “This includes a shortage of medical professionals, a lack of accountability at the IHS and non-payment to medical providers that serve tribal members. Deputy Director Smith has committed to work with us to address these issues within IHS, which will help ensure better health outcomes throughout Indian Country.”

Specifically, Hoeven urged Director Smith to:

  • Reform IHS’ credentialing process for medical professionals, which must currently be renewed each year. This discourages qualified professionals from working in underserved areas.
  • Implement better accountability and quality standards for IHS facilities, noting the persistent issues at IHS’ Great Plains Area office, formerly the Aberdeen Area office.
  • Resolve the backlog of reimbursements owed to non-IHS providers to ensure tribal members can continue to access this care when needed.

Hoeven secured a commitment from Smith to pursue reforms in these areas. The deputy director further indicated that some reforms are in process and could be implemented later this year.

In addition to the Indian Affairs Committee, Hoeven serves as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he works to support vital health care services and facilities under IHS, as well as programs to address the shortage of health care professionals in tribal and rural communities.