As part of President Biden’s continued efforts to ensure the pandemic response reaches all people and all communities, the Biden Administration is announcing it will invest more than $4 billion to combat COVID-19 in Indian Country.
The funding, from the American Rescue Plan, will expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and treatment; increase preventive health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives at higher risk for COVID-19; expand hospitals’ and health clinics’ ability to serve their communities during the pandemic and beyond; and provide the Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal health programs, and urban Indian health programs with needed funding to make up for lost reimbursements experienced during the pandemic.
The Indian health system has already administered more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine thanks to efforts, and today’s announcement will help IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health programs accelerate this progress.
Today’s announcements include:
$600 Million to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in Indian Country: Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, IHS will invest $600 million to support increased vaccinations in Indian Country. These funds can support mobile vaccination efforts in rural or hard to reach areas, large scale vaccination events, and other activities to help connect American Indians and Alaska Natives to vaccines on their reservations and in their communities. Additionally, IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health programs can use this funding to provide support for trusted local voices and medical professionals to conduct outreach into communities and build vaccine confidence – projects that are already seeing success. A recent survey from the Urban Indian Health Institute, an IHS-funded tribal epidemiology center, found that 75% of American Indians and Alaska Natives would be willing to get vaccinated and 74% believe that getting vaccinated is their responsibility to their community.
$1 billion to detect, diagnose, trace, monitor, and mitigate COVID-19 infections: IHS will invest $1 billion to increase contact tracing, drive through testing sites, pop up testing sites, and other public health efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, this funding will support the purchase of PPE, medical supplies, tests, and therapeutics.
$2 billion for tribal health systems due to lost reimbursements for care during the pandemic: IHS will provide $2 billion to replace lost revenues attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and private insurance. These funds will help make up for the financial loss across the entire Indian health care system due to reduced patient visits. And this funding will strengthen long-term health care in Indian Country by helping IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health programs invest in high quality provider salaries, services particularly impacted by the pandemic like dental health care, and critical accreditation requirements.
The $4 billion investment also supports more than $84 million in assistance for urban Indian organizations, $140 million for health IT and necessary equipment to provide telehealth services, and $500 million to support overall health care services in Indian Country.
This announcement follows tribal consultation and urban confer in early March by the Biden Administration to engage tribal stakeholders in identifying how to urgently and most effectively allocate the resources provided by the American Rescue Plan.
American Indian and Alaska Native people are at higher risk for COVID disease and complications. According to a recent CDC report, American Indians and Alaska Natives were 3.5 times more likely to get COVID-19 than the non-Hispanic white population, and they have had the highest hospitalization rate of any racial or ethnic group. Native people are also more than 4 times as likely to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19. American Indians and Alaska Natives also have high rates of certain co-morbidities that have been linked to poor outcomes with COVID-19, including diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.