Indian Health Service

I've been a healthcare wonk for nearly a decade (in fact, the 10th anniversary of this website is coming up exactly one month from today), and I've learned a lot about how the U.S. healthcare system works (or, oftentimes, doesn't). Yet, even after all that time, I still occasionally stumble upon information about it which seems like it should have been something I knew all along, yet somehow never knew until now.

The Indian Health Service falls into this category. Don't get me wrong; I knew the IHS existed, and I knew that it serves roughly 2.2 million eligible Native Americans and Alaska Natives nationally. I've referenced it many times before, usually when discussing the types of healthcare coverage people have or funding included in various Congressional bills.

However, in all that time, I somehow was under the impression that the IHS was similar to either the Veterans Administration or Medicaid in terms of how it works, how it's paid for...and how comprehensive it is. I offer no excuses as to why I thought that was the case; I just did.