Indian Health Service (IHS)

The U.S. has an obligation, based on a 1787 agreement between tribes and the government, to provide American Indians with free health care on reservations. In exchange for over 450 million acres of Native lands, American Indians received a commitment from the federal government to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of Indian people into the future. This federal trust responsibility to provide healthcare is carried out by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services through Indian Health Service.

IHS serves almost 2 million American Indians in 35 states.

In the Current Population Survey, the Census Bureau in March 1998 modified its definition of the population with Medicaid coverage. Previously, an individual reporting coverage from the IHS only was counted as part of the Medicaid population. Beginning with the March 1998 CPS, individuals covered solely by IHS are counted as uninsured (Fronstein: 27).


  • Indian Health Service
  • Office of Minority Health (OMH).  The mission of the OMH is to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities. OMH was established in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It advises the Secretary and the Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS) on public health program activities affecting American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.
  • U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee
  • State offices of minority and multicultural health. These agencies represent OMH’s counterpart at the state level.
  • National Indian Health Board (NIHB). NIHB advocates on behalf of all Tribal Governments and American Indians/Alaska Natives in their efforts to provide quality health care.represents Tribal governments—both those that operate their own health care delivery systems through contracting and compacting, and those receiving health care directly from the IHS.
  • National Congress of American Indians. Policy Issues: Health. Since 1944, the National Congress of American Indians has been working to inform the public and Congress on the governmental rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives. This page provide links to many state and regional Indian health boards.

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