"When President Barack Obama signed the monumental Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — colloquially known as health care reform — he immediately and forever re-authorized and expanded Indian health care, which had been stalled in Congress since 2001. The IHS was created in 1955.
“This is a life-changing piece of legislation,” Lodge says. “We’ve already seen a dramatic difference. The law was passed March 23. Within 30 days, we probably had a 30 percent increase in the resources we had.”
Some key points about the newly expanded service: IHS’s budget was immediately increased by 13 percent; the agency can now provide for hospice and long-term care; IHS was directed to create more sweeping behavioral health, prevention and treatment programs; Native Americans living off the reservation will have better access to IHS services, something sorely lacking before; and the agency will be able to enter into arrangements with other governmental bodies — such as the Department of Veterans Affairs — to share medical facilities and services.
Changes in institutional support are important. But getting rid of the disparity between Native American health and every other American’s health is the ultimate goal.
Native Americans die from tuberculosis at a rate 500 percent higher than everyone else. They’re twice as likely to suffer from diabetes as non-Natives. And Native Americans are five times more likely to die of alcoholism than the rest of the nation’s citizens."
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(The Inlander 10/6)