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IHS and VA Renew, Expand Partnership

by Mary L. Smith, Principal Deputy Director, IHS

I am pleased to share with you two new developments regarding IHS’ ongoing collaboration with the Veterans Affairs (VA). This partnership aims to provide eligible American Indian and Alaska Native veterans with access to care closer to their homes; promote cultural competence and quality health care; and focus on increasing care coordination, collaboration, and resource-sharing between the agencies.

In 2010, the IHS and the VA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the goal of improving the health status of American Indian and Alaska Native veterans. In 2012, this was augmented with a reimbursement agreement allowing the VA to financially compensate IHS for direct health care provided to American Indian and Alaska Native veterans that are eligible for and enrolled in the VA's health care system.

Last week, I signed an amendment with the VA to extend the period of a national reimbursement agreement [PDF] for direct health care services through June 30, 2019. Extending the reimbursement agreement has been a major priority for tribes and the IHS this past year. Between 2012 and 2015, the VA reimbursed over $16.1 million for direct care services provided by the IHS and tribal health programs covering 5,000 eligible Veterans. I encourage you to read more about the results of this partnership in the IHS-VA MOU Annual Report that is available on the VA website at: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  [PDF].

I am also excited to announce a new Interagency Agreement with the VA authorizing the IHS to use the VA’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) [PDF]. This program benefits veterans and non-veterans alike.

The VA CMOP is a sophisticated mail order pharmacy program which uses 7 highly automated facilities to efficiently and safely deliver filled prescriptions directly to patient homes across the U.S. The IHS began using the CMOP on a trial basis in 2010. Since then, approximately 60 IHS pharmacies have filled more than 2 million prescriptions, increasing access to care, decreasing wait times and improving the patient experience.

Under the newly signed agreement, eligibility for accessing the CMOP will be expanded to tribes and tribal organizations with Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act agreements. This is an exciting development, and the IHS is assisting tribes as they work to meet technical requirements and implement the program.

The collaboration between the IHS and the VA is a great example of how the IHS is innovating and maximizing resources to meet needs and overcome challenges, and I want to thank the VA for their continuing support.

Ms. Smith, a member of the Cherokee Nation, leads IHS, a nationwide health care delivery program responsible for providing preventive, curative and community health care to approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Mary L. Smith, Principal Deputy Director, IHS