DearColleague.us

Letter

From: The Honorable Norma J. Torres
Sent By:
Rudy.Soto@mail.house.gov

Bill: H.R. 981
Date: 2/28/2017

Current cosponsors: Cole, O’Halleran, Walter Jones, Cardenas, Fortenberry, Keating, Roybal-Allard, Blumenauer

Supported by:
The National Indian Health Board, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Council of Urban Indian Health, the Direct Service Tribes Advisory Committee, and the Self-Governance Communication & Education Tribal Consortium

Dear Colleague,

I urge you to join me in cosponsoring H.R. 981, the Indian Health Service Hiring Freeze Exemption Act, a bipartisan bill that I introduced to protect the Indian Health Service (IHS) from any federal hiring
freeze.

On January 23rd, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum instituting a hiring freeze across federal government agencies. This action greatly impacts Native American constituents and tribal nations
throughout our country, as it directly affects IHS’s ability to recruit and retain healthcare practitioners needed to carry out their mission. The IHS provides primary care to over 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. With a nearly 33 percent vacancy
rate for primary care physicians in IHS hospitals, the IHS and the communities that depend on its services simply cannot afford to have IHS put off hiring doctors and critical personnel. 

While you may have
seen some relief
from the implementation guidance, many crucial administrative positions were not exempt that are essential to the day-to-day quality of care for American Indians and Alaska Natives relying on IHS for healthcare and public health services.
For example, leadership positions at the Area Office levels and Service Units as well as billing and coding professionals were not exempt.

There is precedence for taking this action; the Veterans Affairs Department exempted health care professionals less than a week after the hiring freeze memorandum was signed. The IHS Hiring Freeze Exemption
Act simply directs the administration to exempt the IHS from the federal employee hiring freeze in a similar manner to military personnel. There are over 1,550 vacancies for medical professional across the IHS system, failure to provide this exemption would
limit IHS’s ability to meet the public safety and emergency needs of individuals in some of the most remote and rural communities around the nation.

This bill is consistent with the Presidential Memorandum that provides exemptions from the hiring freeze for positions that are necessary to meet public safety responsibilities. Filling positions at IHS
that are involved in patient care or provide critical support is a matter of life and death within these communities.

The hiring freeze will have a severe and lasting impact on the already vulnerable populations of Native Americans. By passing this legislation, Congress will be doing its part to try to protect the health
and well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

For more information or to become a cosponsor of H.R. 981, please contact Rudy Soto in Rep. Torres’s office at x58653 or Rudy.Soto@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

 

Norma J. Torres

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alasak Native Affairs