American Indian Tribal Leaders Raise Concerns Over Health Care Funding Shortfalls
American Indian tribal leaders meeting with an Indian Health Service official at a recent summit in Sioux Falls, S.D., expressed "frustrations" over levels of federal health care funding for American Indians and addressed health disparities, Indian Country Today reports.
According to Indian Country Today, "many health care disparities exist in the American Indian communities, and funding is always inadequate." In addition, although the White House increased its funding request for IHS in its fiscal year 2008 budget, the final version "still falls short of the need," Indian Country Today reports.
Mary Lou Stanton, IHS' deputy director of Indian Health Policy, told tribal chairs and members of the Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairmen's Health Board that the shortfall means many local health care ventures that are usually cofunded by IHS will go unfunded for several more years. 'There are 76 tribes signed up for the joint ventures, but we can only fund two,' she said. Stanton acknowledged the frustration of tribal leaders and called for increased outreach to members of Congress whose states do not have American Indian populations. She added, 'We have to depend on the tribes to plea for more funds. IHS is funded at 60% of need. Some tribal leaders use the funding level of 40% or 50% of need."
John Yellow Bird Steele, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said, 'People talk about funding, but nobody does anything." He added, "It seems the IHS doesn't care." According to Indian County Today, such "frustrations expressed by the tribal chairmen are caused because the message they convey to Congress and the IHS is repeated year after year." Steele said, 'Health care should be at today's standards. Our people want to catch up with the rest of America" (Melmer, Indian Country Today, 6/22).