Alaska Land Conveyance Legislation Heads to President’s Desk

Bill Transfers 23 Acres to YKHC to Improve Rural Health

The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed S. 230, legislation introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski to transfer 23 acres of federal lands in Bethel, AK to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) for the expansion and renovation of existing health programs and facilities.

Senator Murkowski and Alaska Congressman Don Young, who sponsored and passed companion legislation out of committee in the House, both applauded the passage of the bill which they say will pave the way for the construction of YKHC’s 130,000 square foot primary care facility expansion.

“I thank Congress for recognizing the need to improve access to healthcare in rural Alaska,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.This land transfer is critical for the future of the people in the region and their growth. Not only is this important for the health of the people who live there, but it’s also an opportunity to create jobs in the community.”

“This widely supported legislation will assist countless Alaska Natives in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region by allowing YKHC to significantly grow their operations and expand their facilities,” said Congressman Don Young. “I’m proud to have played a role in this important land transfer, and would like to commend both Senator Murkowski and Chairman Rob Bishop for the leadership they showed in making this a reality.”

S.230, which passed the Senate on June 25, 2015, is cosponsored by Senator Dan Sullivan. The bill is expected to be signed into law by the President in the coming days.

Need for Legislation:

YKHC is a non-profit Alaska Native organization that provides health care services to 58 communities in Southwest Alaska through a self-governance compact with the Indian Health Service (IHS).

Their regional hospital has seen an increase in patient visits in recent years, which has led to a strain on the 30 year old facility. YKHC plans to build a 130,000 square foot primary care clinic attached to its existing hospital to meet demand in the coming years.

In order to finance the expansion, valued at $250 million, YKHC applied for and was awarded the IHS competitive Joint Venture Construction Program. YKHC’s participation in the Joint Venture Program necessitates ownership of the 23 acre parcel of land in which it operates its regional hospital in Bethel, however the land is currently owned by IHS.

Both YKHC and the Department of Health and Human Services support the land transfer, however Congressional action is necessary to convey the federal property.