TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation will receive $29.5 million in a settlement with the Indian Health Service to compensate for the costs of contracting for health services that the federal agency failed to pay the tribe for nearly a decade.

The tribe will receive the $29.5 million in a lump sum. Todd Hembree, attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, expects the settlement check within a matter of days.

The Tribal Council will approve plans for spending the settlement in an upcoming meeting, spokeswoman Julie Hubbard said.

The Indian Health Service is a federal agency under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is required to pay the Cherokee Nation each year for indirect costs to support health contracts and other infrastructure.

The Cherokee Nation originally filed its claim in 2006 after those costs went unpaid.

The Indian Health Service’s underpayment for contracts with Native American tribes has not been limited to the Cherokee Nation.

Between 2005 and 2013, the federal government’s underpayments to the Cherokee Nation totaled more than $31 million, including interest.

The Cherokee Nation’s health system consists of W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah and eight health centers throughout Oklahoma. Together, the facilities have more than 1 million patient visits per year.

“I am extremely pleased the Cherokee Nation is finally going to recoup funds that were owed us for so long,” said Hembree, who negotiated the settlement. “These funds will be put to great use in helping meet the needs of the Cherokee people.”

Casey Smith 918-732-8106

casey.smith@tulsaworld.com

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