On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, CNAY Intern Keith Martinez attended a hearing on H.R. 5406 or the “Helping to Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare Act” (HEALTTH Act). Introduced by State Representative Kristi Noem of South Dakota, H.R. 5406 is intended to amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to improve access to tribal health care by providing for systemic Indian Health Service workforce and funding allocation reforms, and for other purposes.
The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Committee on Ways and Means. Members of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs were in attendance.
In the first of two panels, Representative Noem presented information gathered during field hearings held in the affected areas. The second panel was made up of constituent testimony. Those who testified spoke to the importance of H.R. 5406 by painting a picture of the severity of the current situation. Some spoke of the closing of emergency rooms and how this has led to long transports, some ending in death. Others described the condition of hospitals as third world or worse.
Among those who testified were Ms. Mary Smith, Principal Deputy Director Indian Health Service U.S.; William Bear Shield, Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Board; Vernon Miller, Chairman of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska; Ms. Victoria Kitcheyan, Secretary Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska; Ms. Jerilyn Church, Chief Executive Officer of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board; and Ms. Stacy Bohlen, Executive Director of the National Indian Health Board.
The hearing ended with a call to action to increase support for the bill before it is presented to the House floor. For more information on H.R. 5406 or to view this hearing please visit the links below:
Text of bill: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr5406/text