Congress Needs To ‘Quickly’ Approve Indian Health Care Reauthorization Bill, California Senator Writes in Opinion Piece
House leaders should "act quickly and approve" the Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization bill "so that we can send this bill to the president and provide the quality health care that [American Indians] in California and around the nation need and deserve," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) writes in a Eureka Times-Standard opinion piece (Boxer, Eureka Times-Standard, 4/2). The Senate in February approved the bill (S 1200), which would authorize $35 billion over the next decade for the Indian Health Service to expand health coverage and services for about 1.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 2/27).
Passing the bill is a "critical first step toward addressing a long list of unmet health care needs facing American Indian communities," Boxer writes. The bill is "particularly important to California," where there are more than 100 federally recognized tribes that are eligible for IHS health care services and about 280,000 American Indians who do not live on reservations but are eligible to receive care through the Urban Indian Health Program, according to Boxer.
Under the bill, "For the first time, Indian tribes would be able to use federal funds to provide long-term care, including hospice, home-based and community-based care for elderly and vulnerable members in their communities," she writes. In addition, "[b]y modernizing and updating existing standards for tribal health clinics, this bill gives tribes more flexibility to provide care in their clinics instead of being required to refer patients in need of specialty and long-term care to other facilities," Boxer continues, adding, "Ultimately, this will help reduce the strain on already-limited funding sources and will result in fewer patients in the Indian community being denied the care they so desperately need" (Boxer, Eureka Times-Standard, 4/2).