IHS, Ketchikan Natives disagree over treatment costs

Posted: Friday, July 07, 2000

KETCHIKAN -- Ketchikan's Native corporation is contesting an Indian Health Service ruling on the cost of treating the corporation's members at a regional hospital in Sitka.

IHS last week pegged the cost at $672,000 a year, while Ketchikan Indian Corp. places the figure closer to $2 million.

The amount is important to the corporation, which wants the money as part of its bid to transfer treatment of its members and those from neighboring Saxman from the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium hospital in Sitka to Ketchikan General Hospital.

As part of the plan, KIC would administer the federal funds.

Stephanie Rainwater-Sande, KIC president, told KRBD radio she's unhappy with the decision, especially after tribal members met with IHS officials last month to discuss ways to calculate the funds.

She said the numbers were crunched using six different methods, and that four times the result was around $1.8 million. The figure chosen by IHS was the smallest of the six.

``Ketchikan Indian Corp. is the largest tribe in Alaska,'' she said. ``For (IHS) to come up with the lowest amount of $672,000 is absolutely unacceptable to KIC''

KIC representatives will meet with IHS officials in Anchorage next week to discuss the ruling.

Ken Brewer, president of the Native regional hospital in Sitka, said he was generally pleased, even though his facility could lose $672,000 from its $15.1 million allocation from IHS.

``I think the Indian Health Service came to the right conclusion, and that conclusion being that the formula determining the cost of care rendered is workload-driven,'' he said. ``What the KIC was promoting was a per-capita distribution.''

Christopher Mandregan, IHS health service director for Alaska, said the agency can't give the contested money to either KIC or the Sitka hospital now because of their dispute.

``Unless anything changes, those dollars will revert back to the Indian Health Service, and it will then become the Indian Health Service's responsibility to utilize those funds to provide hospital care for beneficiaries in Ketchikan and Saxman,'' he said.

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