Anchorage based Southcentral Foundation announced a settlement with the Indian Health Service over contract payments that at $96 million represents the largest IHS settlement in history.
Lloyd Miller is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the IHS on behalf of tribes. Miller says after the U.S Supreme court in 2005 ruled the federal government was liable for underfunding tribal contracts, tribes filed hundreds of suits, but the IHS still refused to pay or settle, until the Supreme court reaffirmed their ruling in 2012.
“That signaled the beginning of a very long and very arduous settlement process because by late 2012, the agency was facing claims by over 200 tribes and inter-tribal organizations totaling in excess of $2 billion,” Miller said.
Miller says no claims were settled until 2013. But he says over the last 3 or 4 months, the logjam of disagreement over how to proceed with settlements has broken. Other payments in Alaska have happened in recent weeks, and Miller says the Yukon Kuskokwim settlement in December was the second largest in history behind Southcentral.
“Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation settled in December for $39 million and also settlements have been achieved for the Manillaq Corp, the Ketchikan Indian Corp, the Arctic Slope Native Association and the Bristol Bay Health Corporation,” Miller said. “All of those have been resolved and there are many more in active negotiations right now.”
Miller says the money will have great impact for Alaska tribes.
Katherine Gottlieb is the President and CEO of Southcentral Foundation. She says signing the agreement was a relief.