Murkowski Calls for “New Leadership” at Indian Health Service

Senator: Alaska Natives “Stifled by Bureaucratic Regulations and Broken Promises”

Senator Lisa Murkowski today told former Acting Director of the Indian Health Service, Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, that she would not support a nomination for her to resume running the federal department that has consistently failed to deliver on the most basic federal trust obligations for America’s First People.  Though the Obama Administration claimed to be considering Roubideaux for I.H.S. Director, Murkowski suggested they look for “new leadership” instead that can work as partners with Alaska Native Tribes.

In a hearing of the Indian Affairs Committee, Senator Murkowski reminded Roubideaux of her paltry track record for Alaska: ignoring a Supreme Court ruling requiring contract support costs and staffing packages to be fully funded; a lack of resources for village built clinics, and the failure to fix the definition of Indian in the Affordable Care Act.  In all of these, Murkowski said, she expected to find agreement and cooperation – but instead was forced to fight.

“Tribal self-governance is a model that must be supported and expanded.  We cannot as a country fulfill a federal trust relationship based on failed economic policies, stifled by bureaucratic regulation and broken promises…

“I’ve been asking to work with the administration for years in partnership, but I have to fight it for staffing packages, contract support costs, base operational funding for village built clinics – we have this conversation every single time.  We have urged you to achieve an administrative fix to the definition of Indian in the Affordable Care Act to confirm the definition with Medicare and Medicaid.  I have worked to safeguard the Indian Health Service from sequestration, to be equally treated as other federal health programs.

“At every turn, it seems I’m not getting that partnership assistance from your side.  There remains no leadership in this administration on advance funding for the Indian Health Service, and tribes have been frustrated.  They have been frustrated when they come to me and I know when they come to you.  I don’t know what the White House is going to do on nominations, but if the administration is thinking about sending your name forward for consideration, I am going to push back and suggest they look for new leadership because we have not seen the leadership and partnership we have been looking for.”