The Seneca Indian Nation has accused the federal government of underfunding the Senecas' health programs by millions of dollars over a two-year period.
In a recently filed federal court lawsuit, the Senecas claim that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services illegally under-counted the number of Seneca Nation patients who receive federally reimbursed health services.
Although the Senecas are a sovereign nation, members of the tribe are eligible for health services funded by the United States government through the Indian Health Service, which is a subsidiary of HHS. The Senecas get reimbursed at a rate of $1,855.65 annually per patient, the Senecas said.
In a lawsuit filed on Sept. 10, the Senecas accused the Indian Health Service of calculating that the number of Senecas eligible for federally reimbursed health services at 4,122, when the actual number of eligible Senecas was 6,156.
As a result, the Senecas allege that their tribal health programs got about $7.5 million less in federal reimbursement than they should have received over the years 2010-2011.
Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter said he has been trying to work out a solution to the disagreement with officials of the Indian Health Service.
"The Nation believes that federal accounting in this case is incorrect and the nation simply seeks reimbursement for the value of that under-count," Porter said on Monday. "We have a disagreement about numbers, which we have not yet been able to resolve in discussions with HHS, so we had to file suit to protect our claim."
Christine Winderlin, a spokeswoman for the Indian Health Service, had no immediate comment on the lawsuit but said her office probably will issue a statement on the matter.
In addition to the $7.5 million, the lawsuit asks for the federal government to give the Senecas interest for two years of under-counting and reimbursement for attorney fees.