WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today reintroduced the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act, legislation that would improve tribal veterans’ access to health care. The bill, which was first introduced in the 114th Congress, would allow the Indian Health Service (IHS) to cover copay costs for tribal veterans who are referred by IHS to the Veterans Health Administration (VA) for services that are unavailable at IHS facilities. These referrals often require a copay that is currently the responsibility of the veteran. The bill would also require IHS and VA, in consultation with Indian tribes, to outline an implementation plan through a memorandum of understanding.
“Since tribal veterans are frequently referred to the Veterans Health Administration by the Indian Health Service for services the agency cannot provide on its own, it only makes sense that these copays would be covered,” said Thune. “Ask any tribal veteran, and they will tell you there is always more work that can be done to streamline the coordination between these two federal agencies. There is no question that passing this legislation would be an incremental step toward achieving that goal.”
“No veteran should have to worry about additional costs when seeking health care services, particularly our Native American veterans,” said Rounds. “The Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act is a step toward fulfilling our promise to provide care for both our tribal and veteran populations.”
The Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act 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 90 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 2011 to 2016; 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.