President Bush Threatens To Veto Indian Health Care Reauthorization Bill
President Bush on Tuesday threatened to veto legislation (S 1200) being considered by the Senate that would reauthorize funding for Indian Health Service through 2017, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 1/23). IHS provides coverage for about 1.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives primarily through tribal health care providers and a network of government hospitals and clinics (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/22).
The legislation would seek to increase the number of American Indians in health care professions, increase funds for screening and health prevention programs, request the establishment and modernization of health clinics, address access to care issues for American Indians and expand mental health care programs (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 1/18). According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the measure would authorize discretionary spending of $16 billion over a five-year period and $35 billion over the next decade.
The White House issued a policy statement that called for changes to the bill and that said Bush would veto the measure if they were not made (CQ Today, 1/23). The Bush administration objected to a provision that would expand the rules for employers to pay their workers prevailing local wages for new projects funded under the bill, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 1/22). The administration also criticized what it said were inadequate documentation requirements included in the bill for enrollment in Medicaid and other government-sponsored programs, CQ Today reports.
Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chair Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who sponsored the legislation along with Rep. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), said he would support an amendment proposed by Rep. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that would cap, at the same rates paid by Medicare, payments by IHS for services provided by outside contractors, instead of the existing higher rates. Dorgan said that the Senate on Wednesday will continue to work on the bill, adding, "We need some time, at least another day" (CQ Today, 1/22).