Indian Health Services ‘Needs Reform,’ Opinion Piece States
HHS' Indian Health Services department "needs reform," Hannah Graff, a research associate with the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, writes in a Billings Gazette opinion piece. According to Graff, "For the past 15 years, Congress has let IHS go unchecked and underfunded." In addition, reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act "has failed several times in the last decade," Graff writes.
Meanwhile, American Indians across the nation experience underfunded facilities, higher death and disease rates than the rest of the population, and inadequacies in overall health coverage and care, according to Graff. "A bipartisan collection of senators, primarily from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, are co-sponsoring legislation that would foster improvement within IHS," Graff writes, adding, "These changes would include, for example, outreach and enrollment for those eligible for public coverage under programs like SCHIP; cancer screenings; school health programs; and the maintenance and improvement of facilities."
According to Graff, reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act would turn IHS "into a system that is well-managed and adequately funded, [and] could reduce the number of uninsured Americans." It would also help establish "mental and personal health programs (with trained professionals), [and] could improve overall health of communities and contain costs." Such improvements "would lay the groundwork for comprehensive health reform that preserves specialized care for unique populations," Graff writes, adding, "This is a promise our government made to American Indian and Alaska Natives -- to provide resources for their well-being" (Graff, Billings Gazette, 8/27). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.