On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would distribute $500 million to the Indian Health Service and tribal hospitals, clinics, and urban health centers in response to COVID-19.
At least 233 facilities across the Indian health system serve as the only healthcare provider for both Indian Health Service beneficiaries and non- beneficiaries. Healthcare facilities in some cases may be the only provider within a day's traveling distance for those served.
Combined with previous funding, this distribution brings the total amount of new resources to the Indian health system to $2.4 billion.
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WHY THIS MATTERS
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted Indian Health Service providers and programs. There is an increased need for funds for personal protective equipment and labor costs, due to employees being exposed to COVID-19.
The Navajo Nation has been especially hard hit. Numbers of COVID-19 infections in Navajo Nation, which includes parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, surpass New York and New Jersey for the highest per capita coronavirus infection rate, according to CNN.
As of Friday, Navajo Nation reported 4,400 confirmed cases and 147 deaths, according to the Navajo Department of Health.
The Indian Health Service and tribal hospitals will receive a $2.81 million base payment plus 3% of their total operating expenses.
The Indian Health Service and tribal clinics and programs will receive a $187,000 base payment plus 5% of the estimated service population multiplied by the average cost per user.
The Indian Health Service urban programs will receive a $181,000 base payment plus 6% of the estimated service population multiplied by the average cost per user.
HHS has allocated approximately 4% of available funding for Urban Indian Health Programs, consistent with the percent of patients served by Urban Indian Organizations in relation to the total Indian Health Service active user population, as well as prior allocations of COVID-19 funding.
The remaining funding will be divided equally between hospitals and clinics.
HHS estimates an operating cost of $3,943 per person per year.
THE LARGER TREND
The money is available through passage of the bipartisan CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that provide $175 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other healthcare providers.
ON THE RECORD
"President Trump has prioritized the health and well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives throughout his presidency and the COVID-19 crisis," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "The Trump Administration is making a targeted allocation from the funds Congress provided to send $500 million to Indian healthcare facilities. Combined with other funding, supplies, and flexibility around telehealth, we are working with tribal governments to do everything we can to support heroic Indian healthcare workers and protect Indian Country from COVID-19."
"The Indian Health Service, along with our tribal and urban Indian organization partners, are delivering crucial services under extraordinary circumstances," said IHS Director Rear Adm. Michael D. Weahkee. "The resources provided by the Provider Relief Fund will make a real difference in our ability to fulfill the IHS mission of raising the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives during this pandemic."
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