The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) recently released a one-pager showcasing the history of funding for the urban Indian health line item of the Indian Health Service (IHS) budget. This document shows a graph of the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup Request, President’s Budget Request, and enacted funding amounts for urban Indian health for fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022. Unfortunately, year after year, the Tribal Budget requests have gone largely ignored as evidenced in this resource. The graphs are intended to convey how far we need to go to begin meeting the health care needs of all American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN).
Urban Indian organizations (UIOs) provide a range of services for the urban AI/AN population and are primarily funded by a single line item in the annual Indian health budget, which constitutes about 1% of the total IHS annual budget.
The FY 2022 urban Indian health line item is currently just $73.4 million, which represents a 17.13% increase above the FY 2021 enacted level and the highest increase in the past 10 years. This amount, however, is insufficient and falls well below the Tribal Request of $200.5 million.
The Declaration of Nation Indian Health Policy in the Indian Health Care Improvement Act states that “Congress declares that it is the policy of this Nation, in fulfillment of its special trust responsibilities and legal obligations to Indians to ensure the highest possible health status for Indians and urban Indians and to provide all resources necessary to effect that policy.” Despite the trust and treaty obligation of the federal government to provide health care to AI/ANs, urban Indian health has been historically underfunded and insufficient to meet the needs of AI/ANs living in urban areas. Each year, Tribal leaders calculate the funding needs for IHS and urban Indian health, but these critical requests continue to be ignored by the federal government.