Opinion: Indian Health Service needs reform
"On the Crow Indian Reservation this month, U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., led a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs committee, addressing the severe lack of federal funds and management for the Indian Health Service. IHS officials, including acting chief medical officer Dr. Charles North, and tribal members testified to the shortage of qualified health professionals, closure of health facilities and cancellation of programs midway through the fiscal year.

A bipartisan collection of senators primarily from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee are co-sponsoring legislation that would foster improvement within IHS. These changes would include, for example, outreach and enrollment for those eligible for public coverage under programs like SCHIP; cancer screenings; school health programs; and the maintenance and improvement of facilities.

IHS needs reform. IHS serves approximately 1.5 million of the 3.1 million American Indian and Alaska Natives from roughly 560 federally recognized tribes. In addition to underfunded facilities, death and disease rates among natives continue to exceed those of the general public - with diabetes and suicide rates double those of white Americans. These and conditions such as alcoholism, depression and heart disease plague reservation communities.

Inadequacies in coverage, care and facilities are so great that the Census Bureau's current population survey does not consider American Indian and Alaska Natives "covered" under IHS - more than a third of American Indian and Alaska Natives went without suitable coverage in 2004. This makes them part of the nearly 47 million Americans without health insurance. In 2004, only 15.5 percent of native adults received medical treatment of any kind. Lack of enrollment in public programs and inadequate services contribute to this predicament. Having access to facilities is not enough."

Get the Story:
Hannah Graff: Indian Health Service reforms long overdue (The Billings Gazette 8/27)

Relevant Links:
Indian Health Service - http://www.ihs.gov

Related Stories:
Wild horses get more money than IHS hospital (08/16)
Senate field hearing on Indian health in Montana (8/15)
Senate field hearing on health this Wednesday (8/13)
IHCIA reauthorization exchange on Senate floor (8/2)
Editorial: Indian health care a trust responsibility (7/31)
IHS suffers from long waits, inadequate funding (7/30)
White House changed testimony on trust (7/27)
IHS slow to resolve problems under Grim (7/26)
Senate confirmation hearing for Dr. Grim of IHS (7/26)
Pill 'epidemic' strikes reservations in Montana (7/23)
Direct Service Tribes discuss IHS in Denver (06/27)
Emergency room at IHS facility fails inspection (05/09)
Indian Health Care Act introduced in Senate (05/02)
California tribes seek bigger share of health funding (5/1)
Belcourt: Indian Country takes path of healthy living (4/30)
House committee approves Indian health care bill (4/26)
Montana and Wyoming tribes host health conference (04/06)
Montana lawmaker presses for health care funding (4/5)
Opinion: U.S. failing to provide Indian health care (3/22)
Kara Briggs: The fight to reauthorize IHCIA (3/21)
Urban Indians hurt by IHS policy in Montana (3/20)
Health care push continues at House hearing (3/19)
DOJ's Indian white paper a political whodunit (3/14)
House hearing on Indian Health Care Improvement (3/14)
Urban Indians under attack over health care (3/12)
Fireworks at Indian health care hearing (3/9)
Senate hearing on Indian Health reauthorization (3/8)
Urban Indians in New Mexico feel left out on health (3/8)
Some urban Indians denied care at request of IHS (3/8)
Indian Health Care Act introduced in House (3/7)
Hearings on Indian Health Care Improvement Act (3/5)
Democrats promise action at USET conference (2/14)
Harjo: GOP calls Indian health care 'race-based' (2/12)
Tribes forced to ration funds for health services (2/2)
Interview: Inadequate health care in Indian Country (01/16)
Joint hearing on Indian health care act postponed (11/14)
Final push for health care bill in 109th Congress (11/13)
White House hit over delays in health care and Cobell (10/05)
Still no Indian Health Care Improvement Act (09/22)
New Standard: U.S. failing to deliver health care (7/18)
Senate panel advances Indian health care measure (10/28)
Senate committee takes up slate of Indian bills (10/27)
Hearing on Indian Health Care Improvement Act (07/13)
Oklahoma senator loses Indian health care vote (06/29)