U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today questioned Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell at a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee about the need for modernization and improved coordination with Indian Health Services (IHS). Thune was allocated approximately five minutes to ask questions and used his time to call for answers from Secretary Burwell on HHS’ slow response to correspondence relating to IHS and the importance of achieving program efficiencies in the IHS Purchased and Referred Care (PRC) program.
Video of Thune’s questions to Burwell is available here.
Timely responses to IHS Inquiries:
“We’ve got nine Indian tribes in my home state of South Dakota, and so we’ve got thousands of American Indians who depend on IHS in my state. My staff works regularly with the office of Congressional affairs…Unfortunately, we’re finding it difficult to get a timely response to our inquiries…I want to hear you commit to ensuring the communication improves and that these inquires get responded to in a more timely way”
Moving IHS PRC Program to Electronic Claims:
“What we hear from providers who participate in the IHS Purchased and Referred Care program is a frustration with the time and significant cost it takes to process these claims. As a result of that, last fall, my staff convened a work group in South Dakota that included the IHS, private providers, and tribal representatives to discuss ways to improve the claims administration process.
“One particular area of improvement that they suggested is to use electronic mechanisms to exchange information in the claims and payment process. In the PRC program, claims are still being mailed in paper form…the focus to move providers and payers to electronic health records should include the IHS and their relationship with private providers.”