March 11, 2015 |  Issue 15-08





Secretary's Tribal Advisory Committee Meeting

March 17-18, 2015

Washington, DC


AI/AN Public Witness Day - House Interior Appropriations 

March 24-25, 2015

Washington, DC 


NIHB Tribal Public Health Summit 

April 7-9, 2015

Palm Springs, CA


Tribal Self-Governance Consultation Conference

April 26-30, 2015

Reno, NV


NIHB Annual Consumer Conference

September 21-24, 2015

Washington, DC

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In This Issue 

NIHB Updates

The National Indian Health Board's Tribal Public Health Summit will take place at the Agua Caliente Casino, Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, California  from April 7-9, 2015.  The Summit has continued to grow each year, and now in its 6th year, this promises to be the largest Summit to date.  


REGISTRATION IS LIVE. You can click here for more information or call our offices at (202) 507-4070. 


Click here to view the draft agenda. 

Capitol Hill Updates
Special Diabetes Program for Indians - Opportunity for Renewal this Month! 

The Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) expires on September 30, 2015.  SDPI is typically renewed as part of the "Sustainable Growth Rate" Fix (or "Doc Fix") which governs the rates physicians are paid by Medicare.  Accompanying this legislation, are a group of programs known as the "Medicare Extenders." SDPI, along with the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), to promote research for Type 1 Diabetes, is one of those programs. Over the last several years, Congress has enacted only short-term legislation for the Doc Fix, and consequently, SDPI has only been renewed for a year at a time.  Tribes have been asking for a 5 year renewal at $200 million per year. 

The current Doc Fix legislation expires on March 31, 2015, which represents a critical opportunity to see SDPI renewed.  The path forward on the Doc Fix is unclear.  Most recent conversations with key Congressional staff indicate that another short-term patch is the most likely scenario for 2015, meaning that achieving an increase or long-term renewal by March 31 will remain a challenge. 


Many Tribes and Tribal organizations are contacting their Members of Congress to support SDPI renewal in any short-term Doc Fix that passes by March 31. 

Click here to learn more about the latest on the SDPI renewal. 


Legislation Introduced to Provide Tax Exempt Status for IHS Student Loans

On February 24, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced S. 536, the "Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act of 2015."  The proposed legislation would amend the tax code to provide health care professionals who receive student loan repayments from the Indian Health Service (IHS) the same tax free status enjoyed by those who receive National Health Service Corps (NHSC) loan repayments. 


Under both the IHS and NHSC programs, dentists, physicians, dental hygienists, and nurses provide health care services to underserved populations.  However, the IHS uses a large portion of its resources simply to pay the taxes that are assessed its loan recipients. In fact, the Service is spending 20 percent of its Health Professions' account for taxes.  Making the IHS loan repayments tax free would provide funding for many additional awards.   


The loan repayment program has proven to be the IHS' best recruitment and retention tool to ensure an adequate health workforce to serve in the many remote IHS locations.  In Fiscal Year 2014, the IHS was able to fund 379 new contracts and 331 contract extensions.  Due to a lack of funds, 586 requests were denied. Changing the tax status of the IHS loans to make them tax free would enable the agency to fill more of the loan repayment requests without increasing the IHS Health Professions' funding.  You can read the legislation by clicking here

Administration Updates

Data Symposium Provides Valuable Information on Tribal health issues

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB) and the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) hosted a Data Symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC on February 19th, 2015.  The symposium featured the latest data on key priorities in the delivery of healthcare services across Indian Country. 


Tribal leaders, federal representatives, and various staff attended the daylong event following the Tribal Technical Advisory Group (TTAG) Face-to-Face meeting the day before.  Notable topics included updates on the changes in American Indian and Alaska Native Medicaid Enrollment and Payment, updates on the Diabetes and Medicare Payments, information on Medicaid expansion, and updates on AI/AN Marketplace enrollment.


Copies of the PowerPoint presentations given at the Symposium are available here


For more information, please contact Devin Delrow at




Tribal Leaders discuss Budget Priorities with Department of Health and Human Services

On February 26, 2015, Tribal leaders from across Indian Country participated in the 17th U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Annual Tribal Budget Consultation (ATBC) in Washington, DC.   During the consultation, the leaders heard from Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and representatives from other HHS agencies including the Indian Health Service (IHS); Administration for Children and Families; Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).


Tribal leaders discussed issues of importance to Indian Country including support for the Administration's proposal to enact mandatory appropriations for contract support costs; support for advance appropriations at IHS; the need to support direct funding to Tribes at all HHS agencies, including CDC and SAMHSA; and support for the expansion of the Dental Health Aide Therapy Program.


Tribal Leaders also brought forward the need for a mental health agenda in Indian Country.  When addressing the SAMHSA budget, NIHB At-large Board Member Andy Joseph said: "The health disparities in our communities are large-especially pertaining to mental health and substance abuse. Please collaborate with other federal agencies and Tribes to develop an agenda outlining specific mental health issues and strategies for turning the issues into winnable battles."  SAMHSA Administrator Pam Hyde responded that the agency would work with Tribes on this.   

The Tribal Co-Chairs for the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup also presented a summary of the FY 2017 Tribal recommendation for IHS.  Tribes are recommending that the federal government fully fund IHS at $29.7 billion in FY 2017.  To begin a phase-in Tribes recommend $6.2 billion for IHS in FY 2017. You can read the summary of the recommendations by clicking here


Nominations Sought for NIH Tribal Advisory Committee 

The National Institutes of Health  (NIH) is seeking nominations for the inaugural NIH Tribal Consultation Advisory Committee.  The deadline for nominations has been extended to March 18, 2015.

Nominations are specifically sought for the following areas:
  • Alaska
  • Albuquerque
  • Billings
  • Phoenix
NIH is also seeking nominations for national at-large members. Click here to learn more about how to submit a nomination.
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