Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said he will track the Indian Health Service's efforts to improve collection from private insurers, a practice Baucus said will make more resources available to improve the health of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. The senator's comments followed a new report from the Government Accountability Office—which Baucus had requested—that called for updated policies and procedures, as well as increased oversight, for billings and collections from private insurers. According to the report, the Indian Health Service collected about $795 million from all third-party insurers in fiscal 2008, of which about $94 million, or 12%, was collected from private insurers, and 88% was collected from Medicare and Medicaid. These funds were then used to purchase new medical equipment and supplies, as well as to provide compensation and benefits for IHS employees.
The GAO report included a list of recommendations to the IHS for its collection procedures, which include reviewing and updating the outdated parts of the Indian Health Manual to reflect the agency's implementation of the unified financial management system; and developing specific tools and reporting measures to monitor and manage the business revenue cycle, including billing and collection and debt-management activities. In a news release, Baucus said IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux has assured him that changes are being made to improve the agency's collection of payments. “Right now, American Indians and Alaskan Natives are suffering because IHS lacks adequate resources to provide the quality care they need, but these improvements will provide more dollars to deliver that care,” Baucus said. “These lapses are unacceptable. I will be tracking the improvement effort carefully and will demand a follow-up report by GAO.”