Roger Birdbear: Obamacare can aid woes at Indian Health Service

Tribal leaders from the Great Plains traveled to Washington, D.C, for a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on February 3, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

Can going outside of the Indian Health Service actually help the beleaguered agency? Roger Birdbear, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, believes tribal members can turn to the Affordable Care Act to address shortfalls at the IHS:
The problems within the Indian Health Service (IHS) are well known. The Senate Special Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing in February on the problems facing IHS, and have posted a video of the hearing, available on the Committee’s website. The footage shows hours of testimony from individuals and leaders detailing personal accounts and systemic issues within the IHS system. Despite this recent hearing, some solutions are appearing, but not where you might expect: The Affordable Care Act (ACA). Sarcastically called, “Obama Care,” by its opponents, the ACA can address many of the issues facing enrolled Tribal members, as well as helping IHS with it’s funding shortfalls.

One of the most significant issues facing IHS is chronic under funding. As Mark Trahant puts it in his 2010 article, "The Indian Health Paradox," “The IHS has a frugal nature. The agency spends roughly $2,130 per-capita – about the same as the average for other industrial nations. But that compares to the $3,242 for federal prison inmates, $4,653 at the Veterans Administration and $7,784 for Medicare.” Of course, the cost of healthcare in the United States is a discussion in its own right, as Dan Murno reported in Forbes January 4, 2015, “… 2015 looks to be the first year healthcare spending will reach $10,000 per person.” That is a separate issue however, as this discrepancy clearly leads to problems within our current system, a system that funds healthcare differently based upon who is using it.

Get the Story:
Roger Birdbear: Obamacare Helps Tribal Members (Indian Country Today 5/21)

Another Opinion:
Editorial: Now is time to end unacceptable cycle with IHS (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 5/21)

Also Today:
Hawks says congressional delegates haven't done enough to fix IHS problems (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 5/22)
Feds Privatize Troubled Reservation ERs (Courthouse News Service 5/20)

Government Accountability Office Report:
INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Patient Wait Times (April 29, 2016)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Report:
In Critical Condition: The urgent need to reform the Indian Health Service’s Aberdeen Area (December 2010)

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