The CEO of Kotzebue-based Maniilaq Association on Tuesday urged a U.S. House subcommittee to pass a bill that would provide advance funding for the Indian Health Service.
Tim Schuerch says the uncertainty and delays in federal funding makes it hard to run a hospital and hire health care professionals. He spoke in favor of legislation that would have Congress appropriate money a year in advance for the IHS, as it does now for the Veterans Health Administration.
“If I don’t know where the money is gonna coming from in October, November, December, how can I make those commitments to those health professionals, to hire them?” Schuerch said. “Our doctors have to know that they’re gonna get a paycheck.”
One way or another, the bills must be paid. And if the federal funds aren’t there yet, Schuerch says he must pursue other options…like asking a bank for a line of credit or a bridge loan.
“Inevitably, what’s gonna happen in that discussion is the bank is gonna ask me, “So, what is your plan to pay the money back? When are you gonna get the money and what is your plan to pay back the amount borrowed with interest?’” Schuerch said. “And the answer is generally, ‘I don’t know. It’s up to Congress.'”
Without concrete answers, Schuerch says borrowing is difficult, and advanced federal appropriations would help alleviate many of the current problems.
The Maniilaq Association provides health, tribal and social services to 12 federally recognized tribes and 8,000 people in Northwest Alaska.