Indian Health Bill Would Bolster Much-Needed Care, Columnist Writes
The Senate's approval on Tuesday of the American Indian Health Care Improvement Act was the "first and maybe the most difficult challenge" for the bill, which has been "limping along at a coyote's pace for 16 years," columnist Dorreen Yellow Bird writes in a Grand Forks Herald opinion piece. "In Indian country, health care on some isolated reservations depends solely on Indian Health Service," Yellow Bird says, adding that health care "can be one of the greatest needs" on reservations.
Training programs for health professionals, such as University of North Dakota's Recruiting American Indian Nurses and Indians into Medicine programs, "have made inroads on reservations," she writes, adding, "These new American Indian practitioners help alleviate the problem because many Indian doctors want to go home to practice." In addition, "there are some good IHS staff who try hard to overcome some very difficult situation they face day after day."
IHS is important because "many American Indians otherwise would have no access to health care," Yellow Bird writes. "Second, and more important, when the tribal nations in this country gave up millions of acres of land to the federal government, the compensation was the government's promise that it would provide services such as health care, education, housing and so on," she adds.
Yellow Bird concludes, "The Senate sent the bill to the House with high hopes," but Indians "won't sing the 'thanksgiving' song until the president's pen makes the last turn" (Yellow Bird, Grand Forks Herald, 2/28).