Indian Health Care Improvement Act clears hurdle
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved S.1790, the Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act, at a business meeting on Thursday.

The bill permanently reauthorizes all current Indian health programs, eliminating the need for tribes to go to Congress in the future. The last IHCIA expired in 2001.

"This is a major milestone,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee. “As the nation’s attention is focused on the need for health reform, legislation recognizing and responding to the urgent and long overdue need to modernize the health care we provide to the First Americans is making important progress in the Senate.”

"The action by the Indian Affairs Committee today is a crucial step in assuring that American Indians receive the health care they deserve,” added Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), one of the co-sponsors. “This bill will help us live up to our obligation to help Indian Country. It is long overdue and I hope that the full Senate moves quickly on passing this legislation.”

According to the committee, the bill would:
•· 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; and

• Require that the Indian Health Service budget account for medical inflation rates and population growth, in order to combat the dramatic underfunding of the Indian health system.

The House passed IHCIA as part of H.R.3692, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, but has advanced H.R.2708, a standalone version of the bill.

Indian Health Care Improvement Act:
S.1790 | H.R.2708

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