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Click here to watch Sen. Barrasso’s Remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) delivered the following remarks at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act (S. 1250). The bill was introduced by Barrasso along with Senators John Thune (R-SD) and John Hoeven (R-ND) on May 25, 2017.

Persistent failures by the Indian Health Service (IHS) to provide tribal citizens with access to safe, quality health care have led to multiple deaths and the unnecessary suffering of patients, families, and whole communities. The act would improve patient safety and care by increasing accountability and transparency at the IHS.

Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you holding this hearing today to consider legislation on a number of topics, none more important than tribal health care.

“For decades, the Indian Health Service has failed to deliver even basic standards of care.

“In 2010, former Chairman Dorgan began an investigation that resulted in the infamous, and often-cited, ‘Dorgan Report’.

“The issue of the Indian Health Service revealed widespread staffing issues in this review, expired medical credentials, we heard about exceptionally poor delivery of the services.

“These issues, reported more than 7 years ago, still exist within the Indian Health Service.

“During my time as chairman of this committee, we all spent a great deal of time working on issues related to the quality of care at the Indian Health Service.

“As both a doctor and a senator, I find the level of dysfunction completely unacceptable.

“Not only does the United States Government have a trust responsibility they must fulfill,
but failures of the Indian Health Service should never result in the loss of life.

“And yet, stories of unnecessary patient deaths have dominated Indian Health Service oversight hearings for years.

“Ms. Kitcheyan, I appreciated hearing your story when you testified before this committee last year, and I appreciate you traveling here to be with us again today.

“Your story, and those like it, make it obvious why I joined with Senator Hoeven and Senator Thune in introducing the bill before us today.

“Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service is not just the name of the legislation,
but also the goal of this committee in a bipartisan way in any action that we take related to healthcare.

“The bill addresses recruitment and retention of high-quality staff, it addresses shortcomings in the process to remove problem staff, it requires improvement of metrics that will measure health service delivery, and it makes significant changes to credentialing to allow for better, faster patient treatment.

“Chairman Hoeven, I appreciate the leadership that you and Senator Thune have shown on this issue over the years.

“The bill, and the care it seeks to improve, have real implications for daily life in Indian Country.

“Although there is no silver bullet, the need is clear.

“Across the country, interest in improving the Indian Health Service has led to countless comments on the bill so far, in addition to those we are here to receive today.

“As suggestions for additional ways to address the many shortcomings at the agency continue to arrive, I look forward to working with you, with the witnesses and the administration to advance meaningful change.

“Again, thank you Senator Hoeven and thank you to the witnesses for traveling here to be with us today.”