Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) addresses a reception in honor of Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) in Washington, D.C., on January 3, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Rep. Markwayne Mullin: We must follow through on our obligation to Indian Country

We Should Pay Our IHS Doctors
By Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma)

• CONGRESS.GOV: H.R.195, Pay Our Doctors Act

As a Cherokee, I’m familiar with the trust responsibility of the federal government to Native Americans.

Tribal Nations are sovereign governments that have a unique relationship with the federal government. Unfortunately, not everyone in Washington, D.C. understands that.

The federal government has made clear its responsibility to Native Americans. This relationship with tribes has been solidified by treaties, federal legislation, federal regulations, Supreme Court decisions, and executive orders from the president.

The federal government has varied promises and responsibilities to Native Americans. However, the clearest responsibility is to provide health care to Indian Country.

As a result of the partial government shutdown, Indian Health Service (IHS) has not received funding for the upcoming fiscal year, which I believe is a breach of trust. IHS staff across the country have been furloughed or are working without pay in order to provide and maintain quality care for Natives. Based on treaties signed by the federal government to tribes, it is the government’s responsibility and urgent action must be taken to remedy the situation.

I introduced the Pay Our Doctors Act (H.R. 195) in both this and last Congress. This bill would provide IHS with funding through fiscal year 2019.

By the end of each fiscal year, the chronically underfunded IHS has typically depleted its funding. This is a problem in itself, but the Pay Our Doctors Act would—at the very least—allow IHS hospitals to keep their doors open to its tribal population in the event of a government shutdown.

In 2010, Congress renewed the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. In doing so, it passed legislation that stated: “It is the policy of this Nation, to ensure the highest possible health status for Indians … and to provide all resources necessary to effect that policy.”

The federal obligation to Native Americans is clear. Now, the federal government must follow through by providing these resources to Indian Country. Anything other than a full execution of those responsibilities is a breach of trust.

Markwayne Mullin, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was first elected to serve the people of Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District in November 2012. He is currently serving his fourth term in office. Mullin and his wife Christie have five children: Jim, Andrew, Larra, Ivy, and Lynette. The Mullin family currently resides in Westville, Oklahoma on the same family farm where Markwayne was raised.

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