Harjo: GOP calls Indian health care 'race-based'
"Senate Republican policy-makers say the Indian Health Care Improvement Act is 'race-based' and they'll oppose its reauthorization. In so doing, they not only deny the health law's Republican parentage, but they pick a fight that is mean-spirited and cruel to Native people who are infirm and in distress.

The IHCIA was intended to elevate the Indian health status to the level of the general U.S. population. While gains have been made, that goal is far from being realized and the health status of Native people remains in a critical state.

The IHCIA was first approved by President Gerald Ford, whose 1976 signing statement reads, in part: 'Indian people still lag behind the American people as a whole in achieving and maintaining good health. ... Our first Americans should not be last in opportunity.'

Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all signed acts reauthorizing the Indian health law.

The law expired in late 2000. Scandals, elections, disasters, war and political wrangling all overshadowed the health bill's renewal. Congress has funded the health programs under an earlier umbrella authorization for Indian health services, and President George W. Bush has signed the funding bills.

Since 2001, one arm of the Bush administration - the Health and Human Services Department - has engaged tribal leaders and authorizing committees in various bill-drafting exercises. But another executive arm - the Office of Legal Counsel, in the Justice Department - has secretly crafted reasons to oppose the drafts."

Get the Story:
Suzan Shown Harjo: Republican policy-makers oppose health bill as 'race-based' (Indian Country Today 2/9)

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