GM 14-077

IHS Issues Final Policy on Conferring with Urban Indian Organizations

The Indian Health Service (IHS) issued in the attached September 29, 2014, FEDERAL REGISTER notice its Policy on Conferring with Urban Indian Organizations (Policy). The Policy becomes effective November 29, 2014.

Section 514 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), as amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), requires the IHS to confer with Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) in carrying out the IHCIA. We reported on the IHS draft policy in our General Memorandum 12-094 of July 27, 2012.

The Policy provides for conferring on critical events at the Headquarters, Area, and Service Unit levels, as appropriate. The term “critical events” is described as “an event or issue that significantly affects one or more UIOs.” It includes a process for formally identifying a critical event, and provides that such designation is to be a collaborative effort, not one identified only by the IHS. It also describes the manner in which UIOs will be notified about critical events upon which conferring will take place. IHS notes that on issues of interest to tribes and UIOs, both the Tribal Consultation Policy and the Policy on Conferring with Urban Indian Organizations will apply.

In response to a comment that only UIOs funded by the IHS under the IHCIA should be part of the conferral process, the IHS disagreed, noting the definition in the IHCIA which does not limit the designation of UIO to those receiving IHS funds.

The Policy states that the UIOs do not meet the “inter-governmental exemption” of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and thus “any conferring activities that qualify as an advisory committee under the FACA that is convened for the purpose of developing consensus recommendations will be required to comply with the procedures set out in FACA.”

The Policy also explains the government “deliberative process privilege” and gives as an example when Congress requests comments from HHS on proposed legislation, that such process should remain confidential.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the Policy on Conferring with Urban Indian Organizations.