Indian Health Services Needs Reform

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Indian Health Services

HHS' Indian Health Services department "needs reform," Hannah Graff, a research associate with the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, writes in a Billings Gazetteopinion piece. According to Graff, "For the past 15 years, Congress haslet IHS go unchecked and underfunded." In addition, reauthorization ofthe Indian Health Care Improvement Act "has failed several times in thelast decade," Graff writes.

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Meanwhile, American Indians acrossthe nation experience underfunded facilities, higher death and diseaserates than the rest of the population, and inadequacies in overallhealth coverage and care, according to Graff. "A bipartisan collectionof senators, primarily from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, are co-sponsoring legislationthat would foster improvement within IHS," Graff writes, adding, "Thesechanges would include, for example, outreach and enrollment for thoseeligible for public coverage under programs like SCHIP; cancerscreenings; school health programs; and the maintenance and improvementof facilities."

According to Graff, reauthorization of theIndian Health Care Improvement Act would turn IHS "into a system thatis well-managed and adequately funded, [and] could reduce the number ofuninsured Americans." It would also help establish "mental and personalhealth programs (with trained professionals), [and] could improveoverall health of communities and contain costs."

Such improvements"would lay the groundwork for comprehensive health reform thatpreserves specialized care for unique populations," Graff writes,adding, "This is a promise our government made to American Indian andAlaska Natives -- to provide resources for their well-being" (Graff, Billings Gazette, 8/27).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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