President Bush Threatens To Veto Indian Health Care Reauthorization Bill
PresidentBush on Tuesday threatened to veto legislation (S 1200) being considered by theSenate that would reauthorize funding for Indian HealthService through2017, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times,1/23). IHS provides coverage for about 1.8 million American Indians and AlaskaNatives primarily through tribal health care providers and a network of governmenthospitals and clinics (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/22).
The legislation would seek to increase the number of American Indians in healthcare professions, increase funds for screening and health prevention programs,request the establishment and modernization of health clinics, address accessto care issues for American Indians and expand mental health care programs (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 1/18).According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the measure wouldauthorize discretionary spending of $16 billion over a five-year period and $35billion over the next decade.
The White House issued a policy statement that called for changes to the billand that said Bush would veto the measure if they were not made (CQ Today,1/23). The Bush administration objected to a provision that would expand therules for employers to pay their workers prevailing local wages for newprojects funded under the bill, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily,1/22). The administration also criticized what it said were inadequatedocumentation requirements included in the bill for enrollment in Medicaid andother government-sponsored programs, CQ Today reports.
Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chair Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), whosponsored the legislation along with Rep. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), said hewould support an amendment proposed by Rep. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that wouldcap, at the same rates paid by Medicare, payments by IHS for services providedby outside contractors, instead of the existing higher rates. Dorgan said thatthe Senate on Wednesday will continue to work on the bill, adding, "Weneed some time, at least another day" (CQ Today, 1/22).
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