2016- CRS Report: An Overview of Indian Health Service


“The IHS provides an array of medical services, including inpatient, ambulatory, emergency, dental, public health nursing, and preventive health care. The IHS does not have a defined medical benefit package that includes or excludes specific health services or health conditions. The majority of IHS facilities provide outpatient care, focusing on primary and preventive care including preventive screenings and health education. IHS provides services directly when possible; when needed services are not available, IHS beneficiaries may be referred to private providers for care. This is called purchased/referred care (PRC).

IHS also provides a number of health services that target common health conditions among IHS beneficiaries. These include services for diabetes prevention and treatment, behavioral health services including suicide prevention and methamphetamine treatment, and programs aimed at the prevention of infectious diseases. In addition to health services, IHS funds a number of activities related to its unique mission. These include construction and maintenance of IHS facilities, efforts to recruit and retain a skilled health workforce who will work at IHS facilities, and support for the overhead and expenses associated with contracts and compacts that the IHS enters into with ITs and TOs.

The federal government has long-standing involvement in Indian health. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act is the major authorizing legislation for the IHS. It was preceded by several laws that included more general authorization for federal Indian programs. A number of congressional committees exercise jurisdiction over legislation affecting the IHS, including its appropriations.”