Tom Coburn: Substandard, rationed care at IHS
""Don't get sick after June" is a well known saying in Indian Country. It refers to the month when the federally managed Indian Health Service (IHS) program runs out of money.

It's "a pretty accurate mantra," according to Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the program.

IHS is a shameful example of how patients suffer when their care is relegated to a government bureaucracy that rations care. IHS, in fact, characterizes the service it provides as a "rationed health care system." As many in Congress continue to push for a public option run by the government, Americans should familiarize themselves with the tragic story of IHS.

IHS covers health services for about 1.8 million Indians at a cost of more than $4 billion a year. While the amount spent per patient under IHS is less than the average spent on the average American's health care in a year, the per capita spending for IHS is very comparable to that of countries that have been held up as examples of what proponents of government run health care believe our health care should look like, such as Great Britain, Japan, and Spain.

IHS's substandard and rationed care isn't simply the result of insufficient funding, but also mismanagement and neglect.

Last year, Montana Democrat Senator Jon Tester determined that IHS facilities were collecting only 60 percent of the money they were owed by other insurers. As a result, last year IHS lost as much as $532 million, or about 13 percent of the program's income.

The true cost of IHS mismanagement is far worse than could be documented, according to a recent audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). IHS officials who were being investigated attempted to obstruct GAO's investigation by fabricating hundreds of documents. Nonetheless, GAO found that IHS had 5,000 property items lost or stolen, worth about $15.8 million, between 2004 and 2007. Missing items included vehicles, medical equipment, and computers containing sensitive data -- including Social Security numbers."

Get the Story:
Sen. Tom Coburn: Don't Get Sick After June (Fox News 11/5)

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

Related Stories:
IHCIA passes House as part of health reform bill (11/9)
Rosebud President: Take action for Indian health (11/3)
Rep. Hastings objects to IHCIA in health reform bill (10/30)
House panel holds hearing on Indian health care (10/21)
Dorgan renews push for Indian health care bill (10/19)
Dorgan introduces updated version of health bill (10/15)
Dorgan readies 'streamlined' version of IHCIA (10/13)
Health reform bill includes tribal tax exemption (9/22)