I received this in my nursing news from the ANA so I wanted to share it.
Senate backs overhaul bill that 'will save lives'
Last updated February 26, 2008 11:02 p.m. PT
By JUDY HOLLAND
P-I WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON -- In the first major overhaul of the Indian Health Service in more than a decade, Congress moved Tuesday toward bolstering health-care screening, illness prevention and mental health benefits for Native Americans.
The Senate-approved legislation would infuse $35 billion over 10 years into the Indian Health Service to improve tribal health care for 1.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives on reservations. The lawmakers voted 83-10 in favor of the legislation.
In recent years, the Indian Health Service has been funded at about $3 billion annually.
The bill would bolster mental health programs and patient screening for cancer and diabetes, expand disease prevention programs and recruit nurses and doctors to serve American Indian populations. It would also modernize and build health clinics and increase tribal access to Medicare and Medicaid.
The House is expected to take up the measure later this year.
Seattle is home to the largest urban Indian health clinic in the country.
The Seattle Indian Health Board on 12th Avenue South provides a full range of medical, dental, lab and pharmacy services along with programs aimed at drug and alcohol abuse to about 7,000 Native Americans each year.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., hailed passage of the measure as "a major step, something that the Indian tribes have really been pushing."
"It updates the law so they can do the kind of preventive care the rest of America has," Murray said.
The Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which was last reauthorized in 1992 and expired in 2000, will focus on preventive care that can stave off illnesses prevalent on reservations such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, Murray said.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said the federal government has a responsibility to Native Americans after "we took their land, put them on reservations, signed treaties and made promises" we haven't kept, especially with regard to health care.
"This will save lives," Dorgan said.
Under treaties signed by the U.S. government and Indian tribes, the federal government is obligated to provide health care for Native Americans.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said improved health care for Indian tribes is long overdue.
"It's been a neglected part of our health care delivery system," Cantwell said.
The Senate also approved on a vote of 56-38 an amendment by Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., that would grant the Indian Health Service the authority to more evenly distribute funding for construction of its health facilities.
Smith complained about an "archaic formula" under which most of the funding for construction and modernization of tribal clinics goes to fewer than 10 states.
He said states that are not receiving construction dollars for Native American health facilities include New York, Texas, Michigan, California and Washington.
Cantwell said the Smith measure could benefit Northwestern tribes by steering more federal construction dollars their way.
"It's a positive step for a more adequate distribution of resources to the Northwest," Cantwell said.
The Senate also amended the bill to exclude most abortions at Indian health clinics and ban spending on programs that discourage gun ownership.
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, applauded the anti-abortion provision, saying the majority of the Senate "has now shown they agree with most Americans that government funding of abortion is morally wrong."
A similar House bill is expected to come up in the Energy and Commerce Committee in the next few weeks, said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who heads the health subcommittee of the panel. It must clear the House Ways and Means panel before heading to the floor.
Pallone predicts the measure "will move fairly quickly" to approval in the House.
Pallone, vice chair of the Native American Caucus, said health care for American Indians is "far inferior to that of the average American."
He said hospitals and clinics on reservations are in disrepair and have difficulty finding specialized physicians, dentists and podiatrists.
"There is a huge disparity between the health care they get and that of average Americans," Pallone said.
Amount over 10 years that the Senate-approved legislation would put into the Indian Health Service to boost tribal care.
Number of American Indians and Alaska Natives on reservations who would be affected by the legislation. HEALTH CARE
BY THE NUMBERS
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., cited these grim health-care statistics for Native Americans:
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