Including, as you might have guessed, Native Americans:
Dr. Anpetu Luta Hoksila is a Native psychologist for the Indian Health Service. He pulls 10-hour shifts, four days a week, at an IHS medical facility in Arizona. And starting Friday, because of the partial government shutdown, he will stop getting a paycheck.
Anpetu Luta Hoksila, 35, doesn’t know how he’s going to pay his bills. He plans to lean on his credit card, but that won’t last long. He called his Toyota dealership to say he couldn’t make his car payment, and it agreed to let him tack the payment onto the end of his loan term. Worst case scenario, if the shutdown drags on beyond next week, he said he’s prepared to quit his job and work as a barista at a local coffee shop.
“On some level, it’s kind of pitiful. But I don’t care,” said Anpetu Luta Hoksila, who requested he be referred to by his given Indian name so he wouldn’t get in trouble at work. “Generally people know, if you’re up to date on current events, that this is fucked up, right?”
IHS health care providers all over the country are bracing for their first missed paychecks on Friday ― and the reality that they have to keep working anyway. That’s because employees like Anpetu Luta Hoksila are considered “excepted,” meaning they won’t get paid during the shutdown, but they are also considered “essential” because the care they provide is vital to IHS services. The agency provides health care to nearly 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives through 45 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in 35 states.
HuffPost tried to get an exact number for how many IHS health care providers will stop getting paid this week but are still expected to work. An IHS spokesman, who was working despite being furloughed, said he is trying to track down that information.
It’s too early to know how severely the IHS funding freeze will hurt health care services to tribes. But it’s already taking a toll. One urban IHS health care provider said morale has plummeted at her clinic in Michigan, where employees live paycheck to paycheck and are scared. A tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is mulling its own furloughs and pared-back health services. A nonprofit based in Boston and Baltimore that contracts with IHS expects to run out of money this week, and is looking at layoffs and suspended medical and mental health services.
That IHS has even stopped sending money to tribes raises serious questions about the U.S. government not meeting its treaty obligations. The federal government is obligated to provide health care services to tribes because of treaties negotiated generations ago in exchange for huge swaths of land. IHS is funded by the Interior appropriations bill, though it is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. As long as IHS funding is cut off, the government appears to be in violation of tribes’ treaty rights.
While like so much of the Trump administration the shutdown includes a great deal of farce, the consequences are deadly serious.