Release: Delegation Receives Update From Senior Health Official on Great Plains IHS Crisis

Delegation Receives Update From Senior Health Official on Great Plains IHS Crisis
Dr. Mary Wakefield Briefs Thune, Rounds, and Noem Ahead of June 17 Field Hearing


From left to right: Dr. Mary Wakefield, Rep. Kristi Noem, Sen. Mike Rounds, and Sen. John Thune

WASHINGTON  U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today met with Dr. Mary Wakefield, acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to discuss the ongoing crisis at Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities across the Great Plains area. The core mission of IHS, which is part of HHS, is to provide quality health care to tribal citizens throughout the country. Thune, Rounds, and Noem are determined to see that the agency refocuses on its mission, especially in South Dakota.

“I want to thank Dr. Wakefield for taking the time to brief the delegation on what her department is doing to correct the problems faced by Great Plains area IHS facilities,” said Thune. “It’s not an easy job, so I appreciate her attention to this urgent matter. I was also glad to hear that she’s reviewed legislation I recently introduced, the IHS Accountability Act of 2016, and she provided some thoughtful feedback. The only way we’re going to solve this crisis is with a coordinated effort, which includes IHS cooperation and transparency, as well as critical feedback from tribal members in South Dakota.”

“IHS has serious financial, structural and administrative problems, and tribal members in the Great Plains Area have been particularly affected by the agency’s shortcomings,” said Rounds. “I thank Acting Deputy Secretary Dr. Mary Wakefield for meeting with us today to discuss this urgent matter. During the meeting, I shared with her my concerns with IHS and urged her to consult with the tribes before implementing any long-term plans to fix the ongoing issues. Additionally, she indicated her willingness to complete an audit of IHS, which is something my office has requested. I will continue to work with Dr. Wakefield, my colleagues and the tribes to address the systemic problems at IHS.”

“Nearly every facet of IHS in the Great Plains Region faces challenges of life-and-death magnitude,” said Noem.  “I appreciate the attention that Dr. Wakefield and her colleagues have given to South Dakota IHS facilities in recent months, but I remain concerned that the pace of change is much too slow while the communication with tribal communities and overall transparency is lacking. I’m hopeful we can continue to work together through agency-level changes and legislative reforms to ensure tribal members receive the care their families need.”

Last month, Thune and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced the IHS Accountability Act of 2016, comprehensive legislation that would address the systemic failures at IHS by increasing transparency and accountability at the agency. Noem also introduced comprehensive legislation in the House today that offers critical structural changes to how IHS operates, addressing both medical and administrative challenges.

On Friday, June 17, at the request of Thune, the Indian Affairs Committee will hold a field hearing at Central High School in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Thune’s IHS reform bill. Thune, Barrasso, Rounds, and Noem are all expected to participate.


6 Replies to “Release: Delegation Receives Update From Senior Health Official on Great Plains IHS Crisis”

  1. Baggdaddy3

    Could they split up and all three take a separate issue to tackle in SD like new billing practices coming from Sanford (it appears) in 2016 where the provider milks every last penny from a poor working person who has employer insurance and spouse has it plus Medicare? Sanford will treat you as long as you have insurances and then they will throw curve ball and attempt to charge patient a portion (in addition to charging insurances) That is just one that comes to mind. How bout one of them checking on variety of PRICES charged from varying eye doctors, Dentists, and other providers depending on who is getting services (for same procedures) could one of them get on that? Oh and could we send one to various agencies receiving resettlement persons and find out how much it is REALLY costing taxpayers per person and how much per person goes to resettlement agency? There: A Summer full of work to help the little guy….Go get em team SD

    1. Anonymous

      If I understand you correctly, Sanford billed your insurance company and billed you for the co pay and deductible?

  2. Anonymous

    ‘These guys work 125 days , they are so busy getting photo ops;They finally are getting to IHS which should have been done along time ago, but if your busy with facebook its hard.

  3. Anonymous

    So the IHS sucks. So does the VA. If you think your usual healthcare provider sucks and is just as likely to kill you as cure you, go someplace else. This “I’m going to keep going to this facility even if it kills me because they promised me medical care” attitude is, well, really strange.
    And it’s that attitude which has allowed these agencies to keep functioning.
    If nobody went to these places, eventually the funding would stop. The people working in them would lose their jobs. But as long as people keep showing up, the Congress will keep funding them, the incompetence will be rewarded, and nothing will change.

  4. Rather not say

    It’s the culture of the leadership of the agency. I work at IHS. The leadership portrays to everyone that all the rules that apply to all the rest of the Federal Agencies don’t apply to IHS. There isn’t any oversight, the agency is rarely audited, there are not any policies and procedures in place. It is the most dysfunctional organization I have ever been associated with. It supposed to be about the heath care but it’s really about the personal agenda’s of the people in the area. We have been told as a part of HQ that we can’t tell the areas what to do. How ridiculous is that and has anyone ever heard of a HQ that can’t tell people what to do or how to do it. It doesn’t even surprise me this has happened. I work for another agency and we were audited on a regular basis but been in this agency and I have not been involved in an audit or even asked to submit anything a single time in over 4 years. The leadership truly believes that due to the politics involved no one will inquire about IHS and no one will hold the individuals and leadership accountable because it will look like they are trying to pick on the Tribes. Well that works I suppose right up until people start dying. IHS is a Federal Agency and with a few exceptions should be held to all of the same standards as any other Federal Agency. Also the reports when they are submitted need to be verified for accuracy. Rules and laws are made to prevent situations like this from happening and the leaderships job is to ensure the rules and laws are followed not to find a way to get around them or tell everyone they don’t apply to IHS.

  5. Springer

    “Rules and laws are made to prevent situations like this from happening and the leaderships job is to ensure the rules and laws are followed not to find a way to get around them or tell everyone they don’t apply to IHS.” I could swear he is talking about the FBI and Hillary!