Dorgan cites 'major breakthrough' on Indian health
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, announced a "major breakthrough" today on the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Dorgan said S.1790, a bill to permanently reauthorize the IHCIA, has been included in H.R.3590, the national health care reform package that's being considered in the Senate. Passage is expected before Christmas.

"Including the bill in the broader health reform package indicates that Senate leaders recognize the improvements for Indian Country are both important and urgent," Dorgan said. "American Indian and Alaska Natives are the only group of Americans which the federal government actually has a trust responsibility to provide health care for, and so it is important that any health reform package contains the Indian Health Care Improvement Act."

The House included the IHCIA in its version of the health reform bill. The two chambers will have to resolve any differences before it becomes law but this is the closest the IHCIA has come to final passage in 10 years.

According to Dorgan's office, IHCIA 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 domestic violence prevention programs;
* Improve the youth suicide prevention programs available to Native Americans, including streamlining the process by which Indian tribes apply for youth suicide prevention grants;
* 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.

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

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