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After Ongoing Pressure from Begich, Feds Agree to AK Settlement

Southcentral Foundation Receives $96 Million in Back Payments from IHS

U.S. Senator Mark Begich said today he is pleased the Indian Health Service (IHS) has reached a historic settlement with Alaska’s Southcentral Foundation (SCF) on a one-time $96 million payment to SCF to make amends for IHS’s contractual underpayments over the past 17 years.

“This issue has been a priority for me and I’m pleased with the action on these settlements since I took a seat on the Senate Indian Affairs and Appropriations committees where I’ve worked hard to ensure the federal government honors contract support costs obligations to tribes,” said Begich. “I put IHS Director Roubideaux on notice that this record of past underpayments to tribes was unacceptable, and she and the administration are fully aware that I am not hesitant about putting the pressure on again in order to achieve results. The federal government has a trust responsibility to provide health care for this nation’s First Peoples and it’s about time it steps up to pay legal and contractual obligations to those tribes that choose to take over this responsibility through self-governance contracts and compacts.”

Sen. Begich forces the issue of contract costs with IHS Director Roubideaux
during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in June 2013.

 “While this is certainly welcome news, I still think this issue needs a permanent, long-term solution. I have fought hard – including pressing the President and his administration to pay the costs in full – for the federal government to hold up its end of the deal and honor these long overdue contracts with tribes. I will continue to fight as this process to achieve a long-term fix unfolds,” said Begich.

Sen. Begich represents 229 federally recognized tribes and has been one of the most outspoken and diligent leaders in Congress on tribal heath issues, including his work on contract support costs. His work in the Senate includes playing an instrumental role in securing full contract support cost (CSC) funding in 2014 and he is expecting to see Congress fully fund CSC in 2015.

Sen. Begich has not shied away from calling out the Obama Administration after it proposed to set individual caps to contract support costs on a per tribe basis to limit the amount of funds tribes and tribal heath care providers would receive. Sen. Begich has led multiple bi-partisan efforts in the Senate to press the Administration, President, and the Appropriations Committee on the significance of this issue.

Begich’s efforts on this issue were highlighted during an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network where he expressed his frustration with the slow moving settlement process:

“I will continue to push against moving her (IHS Director Roubideaux) forward because I want to see some more results here. I want these long-standing obligations on contract support cost payments that are owed to tribes settled. They are starting to pick off a few, but at the rate they go, it could take 100 years. I want to see some acceleration on those settlements. I’m feeling like they may announce something soon. And if they do, I will probably tell the new chair that I don’t have a problem with moving Dr. Roubideaux forward. But I’m not interested in moving her forward until I see some strong results. Then I will feel better that there is a real advocate in that position.”

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