(a) Duty of SecretaryThe Secretary, acting through the Service and in consultation with representatives of Indian tribes and tribal organizations operating contract health care programs under the Indian Self-Determination Act (25 U.S.C. 450f et seq.) or under self-governance compacts, Service personnel, private contract health services providers, the Indian Health Service Fiscal Intermediary, and other appropriate experts, shall conduct a study—
to assess and identify administrative barriers that hinder the timely payment for services delivered by private contract health services providers to individual Indians by the Service and the Indian Health Service Fiscal Intermediary;
to assess and identify the impact of such delayed payments upon the personal credit histories of individual Indians who have been treated by such providers; and
to determine the most efficient and effective means of improving the Service’s contract health services payment system and ensuring the development of appropriate consumer protection policies to protect individual Indians who receive authorized services from private contract health services providers from billing and collection practices, including the development of materials and programs explaining patients’ rights and responsibilities.
(b) Functions of studyThe study required by subsection (a) shall—
assess the impact of the existing contract health services regulations and policies upon the ability of the Service and the Indian Health Service Fiscal Intermediary to process, on a timely and efficient basis, the payment of bills submitted by private contract health services providers;
assess the financial and any other burdens imposed upon individual Indians and private contract health services providers by delayed payments;
survey the policies and practices of collection agencies used by contract health services providers to collect payments for services rendered to individual Indians;
identify appropriate changes in Federal policies, administrative procedures, and regulations, to eliminate the problems experienced by private contract health services providers and individual Indians as a result of delayed payments; and
compare the Service’s payment processing requirements with private insurance claims processing requirements to evaluate the systemic differences or similarities employed by the Service and private insurers.