Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. v. Dotomain

Decision Date24 August 2021
Docket Number20-5192,19-5005
PartiesCook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc., Appellee v. Evangelyn Dotomain, Director, Alaska Area Office, U.S. Indian Health Service, et al., Appellants
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)

Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc., Appellee
Evangelyn Dotomain, Director, Alaska Area Office, U.S. Indian Health Service, et al., Appellants

Nos. 19-5005, 20-5192

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

August 24, 2021

Argued May 13, 2021

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:14-cv-01835)

John S. Koppel, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Acting Assistant Attorney General at the time the brief was filed, and Daniel Tenny, Attorney. Derek S. Hammond and R. Craig Lawrence, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, entered appearances.

Rebecca A. Patterson argued the cause for appellee. With her on the brief were Lloyd B. Miller and Whitney A. Leonard.

Before: HENDERSON, KATSAS and WALKER, Circuit Judges.



Cook Inlet Tribal Council runs an alcohol recovery program under a self-determination contract with Indian Health Service. The Council says its increased facility costs qualify as contract support costs pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 5325(a).

We disagree.


Cook Inlet Tribal Council represents eight federally recognized tribes in Alaska. In 1992, it opened an alcohol recovery center in Anchorage. The program started with a residential treatment center but expanded over the years to include several outpatient facilities.

The Council runs its recovery program through a contract with Indian Health Service under the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act. 25 U.S.C. § 5321. The Act authorizes tribes to provide health services otherwise run by the government. In exchange, the government pays for the program. See Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. United States, 577 U.S. 250, 252 (2016) ("tribes may enter into 'self-determination contracts' with federal agencies to take control of a variety of federally funded programs").

The Act requires the government to reimburse contracting tribes for two categories of health care expenses. First, Indian Health Service must pay the secretarial amount - a negotiated sum that can't be less than what Indian Health Service would have spent on the program if it directly provided the health care. 25 U.S.C. § 5325(a)(1); see Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter, 567 U.S. 182, 186 (2012); see also Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, 577 U.S. at 252 ("A contracting tribe is eligible to receive the amount of money that the government would have otherwise spent on the program ....").

Second, Indian Health Service must pay for contract support costs. Pub. L. No. 100-472, § 205, 102 Stat. 2285, 2292-94 (1988) (codified at 25 U.S.C. § 5325). These funds reimburse tribes for contract compliance expenses Indian Health Service doesn't incur (and therefore doesn't pay) when it runs the program. In general, contract support costs cover expenses not contemplated by the secretarial amount, like workers' compensation premiums and some overhead expenses. 25 U.S.C. § 5325(a)(2)-(3); Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma v. Leavitt, 543 U.S. 631, 635 (2005). With the secretarial amount and the added contract support costs, the government is required to fully fund the contracted-for health program run by a tribe.

In 1992, Indian Health Service agreed to pay the Council $150, 000 to run the alcohol recovery program. Of that...

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