Senate Finance Committee Hears Testimony on Indian Health Care Funding Needs
The American Indian health care system "desperately needs more funding," advocates and lawmakers said Thursday at a Senate Finance Committee hearing, United Press International reports. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act, first passed in 1976, increased funding for American Indian health programs; however, Congress has not reauthorized the act for the last 13 years. A continuing budget resolution approved by Congress increases funding for HHS' Indian Health Services by $13.5 million, though the agency needs about $436 million, according to UPI (Pierce, United Press International, 3/22). In addition, 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. The program provides low-cost health services to American Indians living in urban areas. 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). Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the federal government is funding IHS at 52% to 60% of its need. He added that if funding is not increased for American Indian health services by June, many facilities will only be able to treat patients with life-threatening conditions. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) said that "resources are stretched thin," but he added, "We'll see how we can work together to address the disparity this year" (United Press International, 3/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.