U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today helped introduce the “Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act” to address persistent failures and increase accountability at the Indian Health Service (IHS). Consistent shortcomings, unmet staffing needs, lack of oversight and longstanding deficiencies at the IHS have resulted in significant gaps in Montana tribal citizens accessing high-quality care. The bill helpsaddress the many issues recipients of IHS care face by improving patient access to safe and reliable health services.
“For too long the IHS has failed to provide Montanans with reliable, quality care. It’s time we enact serious reform and hold IHS accountable in order for tribal leaders, Montana families and care providers to have the tools they need to make the best health decisions,” said Daines.
The “Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act” will improve transparency, oversight and accountability by:
· Imposing a robust Tribal culture and history competency requirement for employees.
· Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue best practices for Area offices and governing boards.
· Establishing a compliance assistance program for underperforming facilities.
· Assisting facilities in adopting more suitable quality and performance metrics.
· Requiring IHS to develop standards to measure the timeliness of care.
· Directing CMS to conduct and make public surveys of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.
· Improving information-sharing between IHS and state medical boards regarding a provider’s history of violations and any ongoing investigations.
· Creating an Office of Patient Advocacy to assist patients in resolving facility complaints and granting patients the right to a medical chaperone.
· Strengthening whistleblower protections.
· Requiring a GAO report on patient harm events and denials of care.
· Requiring HHS to provide annual reports on spending across IHS facilities.
This legislation also addresses staff recruitment and retention shortfalls by:
· Requiring IHS to establish a competitive pay system for IHS health care personnel based on VA health care professional pay scales.
· Expanding eligibility for the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program.
Full text of the legislation can be found here.