This month the Senate is considering the Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization Bill, SB 1200. This bill, which is designed to address the health care needs of some two million residents of the United States who can claim American Indian ancestry, is an important step toward honoring the obligations that we as Americans have toward the health and welfare of Native Americans. This bill will make up-to-date amendments to the health care available to 1.9 million rural and urban indigenous people in the United States, and will restore honor to the federal government's trust and obligation to native tribes.
Congress passed the Indian Health Care Improvement Act in 1976 to address health disparities between Native Americans and the rest of the populace. Since 1992, when the act was last reauthorized, the U.S. health care delivery system has been revolutionized, while the Indian health care system has not.
This bill lays the foundation for program change, including shifts from acute care to prevention and the provision of mental health services for children. It addresses health crises such as diabetes, youth suicide, and drug addiction that have escalated among native peoples in the past 15 years. It facilitates greater input to program operation from the local tribal level and enhances recruitment and retention of health professionals in facilities serving native populations.As a candidate for the US Senate I believe it is vitally important that the United States consider major health care initiatives to improve the quality of life for all Americans. I also believe it is important that the Senate take steps to honor the health care needs of the first Americans by passing the Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization Bill.