Senate Bill To Reauthorize Indian Health Care Improvement Act ‘Encouraging,’ Editorial States
While it is "encouraging" that the Senate Finance Committee last week approved a bill that would reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, "one could be forgiven for a measure of skepticism," an Argus Leader editorial states. According to the Leader, "For years, the program has been funded at per-person levels far below mainstream health care, and the quality of care has suffered for it" (Argus Leader, 9/20).
The bill would revise and reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act through 2017 at a cost of $16 billion over five years and $35 billion over 10 years. The legislation would allow American Indian health care organizations to participate more fully in Medicare and Medicaid and would limit premiums for tribal members. In addition, the bill would allow American Indian health care organizations to participate in SCHIP for the first time (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 9/13).
The Indian Health System has been functioning "by paying claims for only the most necessary care -- when loss of life or limb are imminent" -- because budget constraints prevent most procedures from being approved, according to the Leader.
The editorial adds, "It's been years since the federal Indian health care system received the kind of wholesale review and overhaul it so desperately needs." The editorial states, "It has been a long road to even get this close to a better system, and it will take strong leadership to see it through" (Argus Leader, 9/20).