WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today introduced the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act, legislation that would improve tribal veterans’ access to health care. Their bill would allow the Indian Health Service (IHS) to cover the cost of veterans’ copays for services rendered at the Veterans Health Administration (VA) and would require the agencies, in consultation with Indian tribes, to outline an implementation plan through a memorandum of understanding. Tribal veterans who seek treatment at IHS are often referred to the VA for services that require a copay.
“We made a promise to tribal veterans, and it’s our responsibility to see that it’s honored,” said Thune. “By allowing IHS to cover VA copays incurred by tribal veterans, we can ensure that our nation’s heroes receive the care they have both earned and deserve. This legislation will build upon work we did through the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to improve coordination of care between IHS and the VA and streamline care for tribal veterans.”
“I am pleased to join Senator Thune on this important piece of legislation,” said Rounds. “Native American veterans shouldn’t have to worry about additional costs when they seek health care services. The important thing is that they receive timely, quality care. Our legislation will help streamline health care for all Native American veterans to make certain they receive the care they’ve been promised. I appreciate Senator Thune’s efforts on this issue.”
Specifically, this legislation would:
- Allow for IHS to pay for veterans’ copayments for services rendered at a VA facility pursuant to an IHS referral;
- Require IHS and VA to enter into a memorandum of understanding to provide for such payment; and
- Require a report within 45 days of enactment with respect to:
- The number, by state, of eligible Native American veterans utilizing VA medical facilities;
- The number of referrals, by state, received annually from IHS to the VA from 2010 to 2015; and
- Update on efforts at IHS and VA to streamline care for eligible Native American veterans who receive care at both IHS and VA, including changes required under the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and any barriers to achieve efficiencies.
Click here for bill text.