Health | Law

Alaska Natives could be owed $2.7M for contract support costs

The Indian Health Service might end up owing at least $2.7 million as part of a self-determination case in Alaska.

Arctic Slope Native Association manages the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital under a self-determination agreement with IHS. The organization claims it's owed $2.7 million in unpaid contract support costs for fiscal years 1999 and 2000.

In December 2010, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that IHS didn't have to cover the shortfall. But the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that decision and ordered new proceedings in light of Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter.

"[W]hen an agency makes competing contractual commitments with legally available funds and then fails to pay, it is the government that must bear the fiscal consequences, not the contractor," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court in the Ramah decision.

The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act authorizes federal agencies to enter into contracts with tribes and Alaska Native entities to manage federal programs. The law requires the government to pay for the cost of the programs, plus additional "contract support costs."

Congress, however, has failed to provide enough appropriations to cover the contract support costs. That doesn't excuse the executive branch, the Supreme Court said in Ramah.

Get the Story:
Uncle Sam Owes Yet More Money to Tribes (Courthouse News Service 6/25)

Supreme Court Decision:
Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter (June 18, 2012)

Federal Circuit Decision:
Arctic Slope Native Association (December 15, 2010)

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