Dorgan introduces updated version of health bill
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, introduced a new version of the Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act of 2009 in the Senate today.

The bill has 15 co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). It extends critical programs at the Indian Health Service that haven't been updated in over a decade.

“Indian health care programs – both the health services we provide and the way we provide them – urgently need to be updated,” Dorgan said. “This legislation will modernize Indian health care programs and provide innovative ways to increase access to health care services for millions of American Indian and Alaska Native families.”

According to Dorgan, the bill will:
• Permanently re-authorize all current Indian health care programs.
• Authorize programs to increase the recruitment and retention of health care professionals, such as updates to the scholarship program, demonstration programs which promote new, innovative models of health care, to improve access to health care for Indians and Alaska Natives
• Authorize long-term care, including home health care, assisted living, and community based care. Current law provides for none of these forms of long-term care.
• Establish mental and behavioral health programs beyond alcohol and substance abuse, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and child sexual abuse and domestic violence prevention programs.
• Establish demonstration projects that provide incentives to use innovative facility construction methods, such as modular component construction and mobile health stations, to save money and improve access to health care services.
• Require that the IHS budget account for medical inflation rates and population growth, in order to combat the dramatic underfunding of the Indian health system.

"This bipartisan bill will go a long way toward improving health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives around the country and in Nevada," Reid said. “I look forward to working with Senator Dorgan and my colleagues in the Senate to expand services for behavioral needs and improve access to health care services by reauthorizing this critically important health legislation."

“I am honored to join Chairman Dorgan in re-introducing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act,” said Murkowski, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “It has been nearly 20 years since Congress last reauthorized the Act. Our First Americans suffer the highest mortality rates from diabetes, tuberculosis, alcoholism and suicide. Indian Country has waited far too long for a bill to arrive at the President’s desk. We have failed our trust responsibility for far too long. Let’s embark on a new course to make America’s Native people the healthiest people in the world.”

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