Alaska Tribal Organizations Reap $193M Settlement from Indian Health Service

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The Indian Health Service announced Friday that it has settled an astounding $193 million in claims with six Alaska tribal health care organizations. They are the following:

  • SouthCentral Foundaton in Anchorage for $96 million (the largest settlement in IHS history).
  • Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. in Bethel for $39 million.
  • Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. in Dillingham for $25.5 million.
  • Maniilaq Association in Kotzebue for $25 million.
  • Arctic Slope Native Association based in Barrow for $6.7 million.
  • Ketchikan Indian Corp. in Southeast Alaska for $365,000.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, hailed the most recent settlement, reached with SouthCentral Foundation,  in a news release.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also applauded the agreement. The two senators and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, had pushed strongly for the Indian Health Service to settle the claims.

The Alaska Dispatch reported on Friday that the settlement is “part of an ongoing effort to fulfill contractual obligations with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes that for years have gone underpaid.”

The newspaper also reported that Lloyd Miller, an Anchorage attorney who represents many of the tribal health care groups, predicted that the total settlements with tribes nationwide could ultimately rise to $2 billion.

The SouthCentral Foundation, recipient of the largest settlement so far, is part-operator and part-owner of the Alaska Native Medical Center, a 150-bed hospital that houses Alaska’s only Level II Trauma Center.  It also manages other health care facilities throughout south central Alaska.

Dr. Doug Eby, vice president of medical services for Southcentral, told the Alaska Dispatch that the Indian Health Service had been underfunding the organization about 10 percent a year and that the settlement money will be used to improve health care delivery.

While Southcentral is grateful, the federal government still isn’t doing enough to meet its obligations to Alaska Native people who prepaid for health care by giving up land and resources, he said.

“We will continue to work to raise the level of funding in order to broaden care,” he said, noting that important services are still not funded by the agency, such as mental health services and long-term physical therapy.