U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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Frequently Asked Questions

Health Care Questions and Comments

  • I am part Indian. Am I eligible for health benefits?

    Eligibility Requirements for Health Services from the Indian Health Service

    The most common standard applied for eligibility for health services from the Indian Health Service is that the individual is an enrolled member of a Federally recognized Tribe.

    The following is part of the Indian Health Service Manual text that sets forth the policies, standards, and procedures for determining those persons who come within the scope of the Indian Health program:

    Indian Health Service Manual

    Part 2 -- Services to Indians and Others

    Chapter 1 -- Indians

    2-1.2 PERSONS TO WHOM SERVICES MAY BE PROVIDED

    A person may be regarded as within the scope of the Indian Health program if he is not otherwise excluded therefrom by provision of law, and:

    • Is of Indian and/or Alaska Native descent as evidenced by one or more of the following factors:
        (1) Is regarded by the community in which he lives as an Indian or Alaska Native;

        (2) Is a member, enrolled or otherwise, or an Indian or Alaska Native Tribe or Group under Federal supervision;

        (3) Resides on tax-exempt land or owns restricted property;

        (4) Actively participates in tribal affairs;

        (5) Any other reasonable factor indicative of Indian descent, or

    • Is an Indian of Canadian or Mexican origin recognized by any Indian tribe or group as a member of an Indian community served by the Indian Health program; or

    • Is a non-Indian woman pregnant with an eligible Indian's child for the duration of her pregnancy through post partum (usually 6 weeks); or

    • Is a non-Indian member of an eligible Indian's household and the medical officer in charge determines that services are necessary to control a public health hazard or an acute infectious disease which constitutes a public health hazard.

  • I am an Indian. Where can I get an application for health care benefits?

    Applying for Health Care Benefits

    To receive IHS health care benefits, you should go to the patient registration office of the local IHS facility in person and present proof of your enrollment as a member of a federally recognized tribe.

    See the Indian Health Manual, Part 2—Services to Indians and Others, Chapter 6—Patient Registration System for specific information:

      2-6.1B Policy. New patients must be registered in the IHS facility database prior to being provided health care services; however, emergency services should not be delayed. Information on patients that present a critical emergency that requires immediate medical attention must be obtained from the patient’s relative or other accompanying individual. Each patient’s IHS registration information must be updated on each subsequent trip to the facility by personal interview by a designated IHS staff member.

      and

      2-6.4 Eligibility. The patient registration staff must be conscientious in obtaining and recording comprehensive and accurate data during patient interviews. The information collected and recorded in the PRS [Patient Registration System] is used to determine an individual’s eligibility for IHS direct care services and Contract Health Services from the IHS. This must include documentation from the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] concerning each individual’s tribal affiliation and membership status.

  • I was receiving my health care in an Indian Health Service facility on my home reservation. I am now working in an urban area far from home. Where can I go to receive health care from the IHS?

    Health Care Away From Home Reservation

    Two types of services are provided by the Indian Health Service: (1) Direct health care services, which are provided by an IHS facility, or (2) contract health services (CHS), which are provided by a non-IHS facility or provider through contracts with the IHS. CHS are provided principally for members of federally recognized tribes who reside on or near the reservation established for the local tribe(s) in geographic areas called contract health service delivery areas (CHSDAs). The eligibility requirements are stricter for CHS than they are for direct care.

    A member of a Federally recognized tribe may obtain care at any IHS hospital or clinic if the facility has the staff and capability to provide the medical care. One of the additional requirements for CHS is that the patient must reside in certain areas. One way to meet the residency requirement is to live on the reservation of any Federally recognized tribe. Another way to meet the residency requirement is to reside within the contract health service delivery area (CHSDA) for the patient's tribe.

    Many, or even most, people who move away from their home reservations are not eligible for CHS since they would be moving away from the CHSDA in which they have eligibility. Check with your home or local Service Unit about eligibility, since they will be the ones making all determinations and paying bills for approved care. Most CHS provided is for urgent or emergency needs, as defined by the local service unit, and requires prior approval for non-emergency care and notification within 72 hours for emergency care.

    Some programs or portions of programs are tribally operated instead of being operated by the Federal Government through the IHS. Some tribally operated hospitals or clinics restrict services to members of their own tribe. Consequently, just because a patient is a member of a Federally recognized tribe does not mean that they will be provided medical care at a tribally operated hospital or clinic.

    There are a few urban Indian health care facilities located in cities throughout the United States. Check the Urban Indian Health Program listing to see if there is an urban clinic located near you.

  • I am eligible for health care from the Indian Health Service, but the local Service Unit will not pay for the [surgery, health care, medicine] that I need? Why?
    The Indian Health Service is funded each year through appropriations by the U.S. Congress. The Indian Health Service is not an entitlement program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. The Indian Health Service is not an insurance program. The Indian Health Service is not an established benefits package.

    Direct health care services are services provided at an IHS facility. Contract Health Services (CHS) are services that the IHS is unable to provide in its own facilities. CHS are provided by non-IHS health care providers and facilities. CHS payments are authorized based on clearly defined guidelines and are subject to availability of funds. The Indian Health Service cannot always guarantee that funds are always available. Funds appropriated by the U.S. Congress currently cover an estimated 60% of health care needs of the eligible American Indian and Alaska Native people.

    Unfortunately, that means that services obtained under CHS must be prioritized, with life-threatening illnesses or injuries being given highest priority. It also means that the IHS formulary (the list of drugs and medicines available from IHS pharmacies) may not include all drugs and medicines, but will include most of the ones that have proven to be beneficial and cost-effective.

  • How do I file a complaint, ask for more information, report a problem and/or that my privacy rights have been violated?
    To exercise your rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule you may file a written complaint with the Chief Executive Officer or the Service Unit Privacy official where you receive your health care; or you may file a written complaint with the Secretary, Health and Human Services, Washington, DC 20201 by accessing the link: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/ Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov .

    If you wish to email your complaint directly to the HHS Office of Civil Rights, download the Health Information Privacy Complaint Form Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov in Microsoft Word format to your own computer, fill out and save the form using Microsoft Word. Use the Tab and Shift/Tab on your keyboard to move from field to field in the form. Then, you can email the form to OCR at OCRComplaint@hhs.gov.


Job and Career Related Questions and Comments

  • How can I get a job with the Indian Health Service?
    All Indian Health Service jobs, along with some tribal and urban Indian health program jobs, are listed on line at the IHS web site at Jobs Vacancies Database. Also, other IHS jobs can be located through an on-line search at USAJOBS Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov — Federal job and employment information provided by the Office of Personnel Management.

    Medical Professionals interested in IHS employment may write or call the IHS Health Professions Support Branch at IHS Headquarters in Rockville, MD.

    Indian Health Service
    Health Professions Support Team
    Twinbrook Metro Plaza, Suite 100A
    12300 Twinbrook Parkway
    Rockville, MD 20852
    Tel: 301-443-4242
    Fax: 301-443-1071

    Job vacancies at IHS facilities are handled locally. Please contact the Area Personnel Office directly for information about job vancancies in that region.

    About all Indian Health Service jobs:
    Each vacancy announcement contains information about the individual to contact to apply. Get in touch with that person at the appropriate IHS Personnel Office from the list. In order to apply for most permanent positions, you must be a "status" candidate. Status candidates are Indian Preference eligibles, current permanent Federal employees, reinstatement eligibles, and those applicants with special appointing authority. All IHS positions are subject to Indian preference laws.

    Please Note: When applying for a position, DO NOT FAX OR E-MAIL your job application or resume. Telefaxed or e-mailed documents WILL NOT be accepted.

  • I am a third year medical student and would like to do a medical rotation/clerkship in an IHS facility. Whom would I contact to arrange this?
    The Medical Students Clerkship Contacts page gives contact information for the 10 IHS Area Offices currently participating in the program:

    Aberdeen (covers Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota

    Alaska (covers Alaska)

    Albuquerque (covers Colorado and New Mexico)

    Bemidji (covers Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin)

    Billings (covers Montana and Wyoming)

    Nashville (covers Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Massachussetts, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas).

      Note: Although Nashville Area covers the Eastern United States, the Cherokee Hospital, located in North Carolina, is the only IHS-operated Service Unit in the Area. More than 77% of the Area's health services budget is contracted to tribal organizations.

    Navajo (covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah).

    Phoenix (covers most of Arizona, all of Nevada, and most of Utah)

    Portland (covers Idaho, Oregon, and Washington)

    Tucson (covers southern Arizona)

    The two Areas that are not participating in the medical student rotations/clerkships currently:

    California (covers California) -- All of the California Indian health programs are managed by the Indian people themselves.

    Oklahoma (covers Kansas and Oklahoma) -- The Oklahoma Area opted not to participate in the program this year.

    For more information, see the table giving medical clerkships requirements and benefits for each IHS Area.

    Seeking IHS Jobs

    Physicians seeking employment should look at the IHS Jobs website or contact a physician recruiter. Nurses seeking employment should look at the IHS Jobs website, or contact a nurse recruiter. Health Care Providers other than a doctor or nurse should look at the IHS Jobs website, contact the appropriate person on the IHS Professional Contacts list, or contact Michael Berryhill, Chief, Health Professions Support Team. Medical Students seeking a medical rotation/clerkship in an IHS facility should contact the appropriate person on the Medical Student Clerkship Contacts List. Non-Health Care Providers seeking employment with the Indian Health Service should look at the IHS Jobs website, USAJOBS Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov , or contact the Area Personnel Office.


Scholarship and Loan Information

  • What is the IHS Scholarship Program and how can I get information about it?
    The Health Care Improvement Act ("The Act"), Public Law 94-437, and its subsequent amendments of 1980, 1988 and 1992 authorize the Indian Health Service (IHS) to conduct three interrelated scholarship programs to train the health professional personnel necessary to staff IHS health programs and other health programs serving the Indian people.

    Three types of scholarships are available:

    • Health Professions-Preparatory Compensatory (section 103)
    • Health Professions Pregraduate (section 103)
    • Health Professions (section 104)

    Both Full-time and Part-time student opportunities are available.

    To be eligible to participate in the IHS Scholarship Program, applicants must:

    • Be American Indian or Alaska Native;
    • Have the capacity to complete a health professions course of study;
    • Be enrolled, or accepted for enrollment, in a compensatory preprofessional general education course or curriculum; or be enrolled or accepted for enrollment a program leading to a degree in a health related professions school within the United States.
    • Intend to serve Indian People upon completion of professions health care education as a health care provider in the discipline for which the student is funded.

    For more information, see the Scholarship Program page.

    To request additional information, write or call the Scholarship Program at:

    Indian Health Service
    Scholarship Program
    Twinbrook Metro Plaza -- Suite 100A
    12300 Twinbrook Parkway
    Rockville, Maryland 20852

    Phone: (301) 443-6197
    Fax: (301) 443-6048
    8:30 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. [EST]
    Monday through Friday, (except Federal holidays)

    or contact the IHS Scholarship Coordinator responsible for your region.

  • How can I get information on the IHS Loan Repayment Program?
    The purpose of the Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) is to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals to meet the staffing needs of the IHS or an Indian health program.

    All health professions are eligible to apply to the Loan Repayment Program. However, physicians and nurses have historically received the highest priority for selection into the program.

    LRP applicants must be health or allied health professionals who:

    • are U.S. citizens;

    • are committed to practice at an IHS or other Indian health program priority site, demonstrated by enclosing a signed contract to serve at such a site;

    • are free to begin service on or before September 30 in a full-time clinical practice for two continuous years in an approved IHS or other Indian health program priority site; and

    • meet the definition given in Section 4(n) of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), Public Law (P.L.) 94-437, as amended, that:

        Health Profession means family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, geriatric medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, podiatric medicine, nursing, public health nursing, dentistry, psychiatry, osteopathy, optometry, pharmacy, psychology, public health, social work, marriage and family therapy, chiropractic medicine, environmental health and engineering and allied health professions.

    • have a degree in medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, or health profession consistent with Section 4(n); and have completed an approved graduate training program in medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, or other health profession in a State, and have a llicense to practice medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, or, if applicable, other health profession in a State, except that the Secretary may waive the requirement of graduate training for good cause shown.

    For more information, see the Loan Repayment Program home page.

    To obtain an application or request additional information, write or call the Loan Repayment Program at:

    Indian Health Service
    Loan Repayment Program
    Twinbrook Metro Plaza -- Suite 100A
    12300 Twinbrook Parkway
    Rockville, Maryland 20852

    Phone: (301) 443-3396
    Fax: (301) 443-4815
    8:30 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. [EST]
    Monday through Friday, (except Federal holidays)

  • Are there other student programs that provide financial assistance?
    The US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov offers students a few options for financial assistance.


Web and Internet Questions

  • In looking over the Indian Health Service web site, I sometimes encounter incorrect or outdated information or receive an error message. To whom should I report these errors?

    Reporting Error Messages or Outdated or Incorrect Information on IHS Web Pages

    We are concerned about how accurate and up to date the Indian Health Service web site is. If you encounter outdated or incorrect information on this web site, or receive an error message when trying to access additional information, please let us know by sending an e-mail message to the webmaster@ihs.gov. To assist us in correcting the information, please give us the exact URL (Uniform Resource Locator) address of the page on which you encountered the incorrect information.

    The URL can be found in the "Location" or "Address" window at the top of your browser page. Just copy the URL of the page that needs corrections and paste it into your e-mail message. Currently, the IHS web site consists of thousands of files, and the inclusion of the URL in your e-mail can help us pinpoint the location of the incorrect or outdated information.

  • I am experiencing a visual issue/error (webpage doesn’t look right), what do I do?
    IHS web tests its pages on Internet Explorer v7 and Firefox v3. If you are experiencing visual errors on a website you may need to upgrade your web browser. Additionally, IHS web will do all we can to make sure that all pages do appear correctly across the board, so if you do run across an issue please describe the issue (or take a screenshot) and send it to webmaster@ihs.gov and we will see if we can remediate the problem.

  • If you have comments or questions regarding the development, content, or operation of the IHS World Wide Web site or servers, please send e-mail to Webmaster@ihs.gov. Your message will be routed to an appropriate member of the IHS Web Team.

  • For comments and questions of a general nature that are not covered in these FAQ's, please send an e-mail to Feedback@ihs.gov. Your message will be routed to the appropriate IHS Office, Area, or Program.