Desert Sun: Rep. Ruiz leads effort to secure funding for tribal health care
As Washington debates further stimulus legislation, U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, is helping lead an effort to set aside federal funds to help tribal health facilities recover from revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ruiz is one of 47 representatives who submitted a letter last week asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to dedicate emergency appropriation funds for the Indian Health Service, a federal health agency, and other tribal health care organizations.
“Tribal health facilities are the primary source of health care for millions of Native American individuals, and many are struggling to keep their doors open during this crisis,” said Ruiz. “Native communities often have greater health disparities than other populations, and it is essential that Congress provides a significant emergency relief fund to support tribal health programs.”
The bipartisan letter explains to the congressional leaders that in ordinary times the IHS is not provided with enough funding by Congress to cover the cost of all of the health care needs for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals. So the system relies on other forms of revenue to continue to operate.
One such additional revenue stream is insurance billings for elective procedures, such as non-emergency surgeries.
As health care facilities have stopped most elective procedures and non-coronavirus care, hospital billings for these procedures, often paid for by insurance and referred to as third-party collections, have plummeted.
The IHS reported $1.14 billion in third-party collections, the letter reads, in 2019, which equals approximately one-fifth of that department’s budget.