Poverty and Public Health
6:10 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Indian Health Service Prepares For Sequestration

With the possibility of sequestration two weeks away, the Indian Health Services says they could be facing large cuts to program funding. Those cuts could be disastrous for the Indian Health Service which is already dealing with a massively underfunded budget.

The term, sequestration, refers to nearly $1.6 trillion dollars in automatic reductions to the federal budget - across all programs - in what’s being called the equivalent of an economic suicide vest. Through political pressure the measure has been touted as a way to force a compromise in Congress to lower the national debt, but short of an agreement, across the board spending cuts would take place March 1st.

Currently, Indian Health Services is funded at around one-quarter of actual need, and Urban Indian Health Centers receive around 18.6% of financial need.

Policy analyst Jay Steiner, with the National Council of Urban Indian Health in Washington DC, says sequestration would significantly impact the Indian Health Services ability to provide program services to both tribal and urban clinics.  

“Sequestration would be disastrous for the Indian Health Service as well as for the urban Indian health programs which are funded by the IHS,” says Steiner. “Sequestration, if nothing is done between now and March 1st, will implement across the board, 8.2% cuts to the IHS and the programs that are funded within it.”

The threat of sequestration doesn’t bode well for the approximate 86,000 American Indians who are served by IHS in New Mexico, not including Navajo Nation, whose population numbers were unavailable.