Eliminating Indian Health Services Programs a ‘Mistake,’ Sen. Feinstein Says; Other Lawmakers Urge Congress To Sustain Program Funding
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, which drafts federal spending bills for American Indian health care programs, on Tuesday said Congress should sustain funding for a program that provides low-cost health services to American Indians living in urban areas, the AP/Palm Springs Desert Sun reports (AP/Palm Springs Desert Sun, 3/14). President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget calls for eliminating the $33 million Urban Indian Health Program, a system of 34 health clinics around the country. Last year, both the House and Senate rejected a similar proposal. The budget also proposes a $25 million funding reduction for Indian Health Facilities, which supports construction and improvements to American Indian health services (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 2/22). Feinstein in a statement said, "Cutting off funding for the Urban Health program is a mistake." Clinic directors have said that without funding, the clinics would close. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and a bipartisan group of 10 other lawmakers on Monday wrote letters to subcommittee leaders seeking support for the program, which serves an estimated 430,000 urban American Indians across the nation (AP/Palm Springs Desert Sun, 3/14).
"Despite its obligation to provide health care to Indian people, the federal government continues to abrogate its responsibility by underfunding programs and reducing services," John Lewis of Southwest Native Consultants and Keith Franklin, president of the Albuquerque Metro Native American Coalition, write in a Albuquerque Tribune opinion piece, representing the Albuquerque Coalition of Native American Non-Profit Organizations. They write, "Inadequate or ineffective representation" of tribal members not living on reservations "will only serve to compound existing disparities." According to Lewis and Franklin, "Health care for Indians is not charity," adding that it "is a legal obligation" stemming from agreements made between the U.S. and American Indian tribes (Lewis/Franklin, Albuquerque Tribune, 3/14).