Sen. Clinton Says She Would Improve Health Care for American Indians, Increase IHS Funding if Elected President
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) on Friday during a press teleconference from South Dakota pledged that if elected, she would increase funding for Indian Health Services, improve health services provided to American Indians not living on reservations and expand health insurance coverage to all American Indians as part of her plan to insure all U.S. residents, the Billings Gazette reports.
Clinton made the comments as she outlined a nine-point agenda for Montana tribes as part of her campaign in that state and South Dakota, which will hold Democratic primaries on June 3. Clinton, a co-sponsor of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendment, said that as president, she would upgrade the position of IHS director to an assistant secretary level, which would give the department more involvement with national health policy. She also said she would increase funding for IHS, "which has to ration health care because of budget shortfalls," according to the Gazette (Lutey, Billings Gazette, 5/23).
Clinton said she would specifically address diabetes among American Indians, which is on the rise (Capriccioso, Indian Country Today, 5/23). She said the Bush administration has neglected American Indians, resulting in more poverty and disease, particularly diabetes (AP/Billings Gazette, 5/23). In Montana, four of every 1,000 American Indians under age 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes, and about 38% of all American Indians under age 65 are uninsured, according to the Gazette. Clinton noted that American Indians die at an average age of 66, five years before the national average for the overall population.
She said health care for American Indians living outside reservations also has deteriorated significantly during the Bush administration (Billings Gazette, 5/23). Clinton said, 'By making targeted investments to create good-paying jobs and ensuring everyone has access to quality, affordable health care and by continuing to partner with the [American Indian] community within the government to government framework, we can begin to undo some of the damage President Bush's neglect has caused' (Indian Country Today, 5/23).
Clinton touted her health care plan, which aims to insure all U.S. residents, as a way to improve health care for American Indians. "You will be able to take health insurance with you anywhere in the state, no requirements," Clinton said, adding, "At the same time, because of the concentrated population in reservation locations, we do need to improve [IHS]. We have to do both" (Billings Gazette, 5/23).