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Senate Bill To Reauthorize Indian Health Care Improvement Act Encouraging

Armen Hareyan's picture

Indian Health Care Improvement Act

While it is "encouraging" that the Senate Finance Committeelast week approved a bill that would reauthorize the Indian Health CareImprovement Act, "one could be forgiven for a measure of skepticism,"an Argus Leader editorial states. According to the Leader,"For years, the program has been funded at per-person levels far belowmainstream health care, and the quality of care has suffered for it" (Argus Leader, 9/20).

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Thebill would revise and reauthorize the Indian Health Care ImprovementAct through 2017 at a cost of $16 billion over five years and $35billion over 10 years. The legislation would allow American Indianhealth care organizations to participate more fully in Medicare andMedicaid and would limit premiums for tribal members. In addition, thebill would allow American Indian health care organizations toparticipate in SCHIP for the first time (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 9/13).

TheIndian Health System has been functioning "by paying claims for onlythe most necessary care -- when loss of life or limb are imminent" --because budget constraints prevent most procedures from being approved,according to the Leader.

The editorial adds,"It's been years since the federal Indian health care system receivedthe kind of wholesale review and overhaul it so desperately needs." Theeditorial states, "It has been a long road to even get this close to abetter system, and it will take strong leadership to see it through" (Argus Leader, 9/20).

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.