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Health | Opinion
Mark Trahant: Delivering promises for Indian health care

"The three most important things to know about what health care reform means to Indian Country are simple ideas. First, the United States, officially and permanently, recognizes its trust and treaty obligation for health care delivery to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Second, there will be more money (not enough, but more) pumped into the Indian health system. And, third, President Barack Obama has delivered on a major, long-sought promise to Indian Country.

Now let’s consider a few details.

When Medicare and Medicaid passed Congress in 1965 and were signed into law there was no consideration – none – of how those bills impacted Indian Country. It was as if the Indian Health Service, then all federal employees, was off the books, a forgotten instrument. In fact there wasn’t even a plan that allowed IHS to tap into Medicare or Medicaid dollars. That had to wait for the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976.

That is not the case with President Obama’s health care reform. Indian Country is included throughout the document in large and small measures designed to improve the health of Native people.

The Indian health system, for example, is designated as an “express lane” to help people enroll in Medicaid. That should make it easier for that funding stream to supplement IHS appropriations. There are many other important programs in the final bill, ranging from new education and training programs to improved regulations for tribally managed health facilities.

The most important provision is the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (after ten years of empty promises) as a title in the Senate health care package."

Get the Story:
Congress and President deliver on promises to improve Indian health system (Mark Trahant 3/22)

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