The House and Senate have both adjourned for the weekend, after the House completed voting on five bills to reopen the government, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring any one of them to the floor. That includes the Interior appropriations bill, which includes funding for the Indian Health Services. Yes, IHS is administered under Health and Human Services but paid for through Interior. The government is racist that way, including funding for their health not through the same agency as all the other people, but the one in charge of wildlife. So some of the most vulnerable communities in the nation are losing the only healthcare option they have.
“On some level, it’s kind of pitiful. But I don’t care,” Anpetu Luta Hoksila, told HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery. He’s a psychologist who’s employed full time at an IHS facility in Arizona. What’s pitiful is that he’s considering quitting his job if the shutdown drags on past next week, and starting work as a barista at the local coffee shop. “Generally people know, if you’re up to date on current events, that this is fucked up, right?”
The people who staff the IHS, like Anpetu Luta Hoksila, are considered “essential” employees, meaning they have to keep showing up for work, but they’re also “excepted” employees, meaning they aren’t getting paid for it. There’s the hope of pay after the shutdown ends—the Senate and House both easily passed a bill this week to make sure that happens—but that’s not doing anything to put food on the table right now. There are 45 IHS hospitals and about 300 clinics in 35 states, providing health care to nearly 2 million Alaska Natives and American Indians, and their care is threatened. Bendery reports that one “tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is mulling its own furloughs and pared-back health services. A nonprofit based in Boston and Baltimore that contracts with IHS expects to run out of money this week, and is looking at layoffs and suspended medical and mental health services.”