Indian Country Today Examines Issues Affecting Reauthorization of American Indian Health Care Improvement ActIndian Country Today on Friday examined the recent political process to bring the Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization bill (HR 1328) to a House vote. The Senate approved the reauthorization in February (Capriccioso, Indian Country Today, 10/17). The House decided not to bring the bill up for a vote because it included an amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that would have codified restrictions on the use of federal funds to pay for abortions (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 10/6).
According to Indian Country Today, some tribal advocates believe that the National Congress of American Indians "failed to anticipate the vast problem the Vitter amendment would pose and should have worked harder with congressional allies to ultimately get that language quashed, so as not to become a sticking point in the House." An unnamed lobbyist and former White House staffer said, "The reality is that from the moment Sen. Vitter tacked on his antiabortion language to the Indian bill, it was doomed."
Tex Hall, former NCAI president, said that NCAI officials should have fought the amendment and made the "case that this act affects the health and well-being of every American Indian, and that this was not the time or place to put in a morality amendment. You can't be afraid of playing tough politics, especially in an election year."
Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of NCAI, said while the organization opposed the amendment, it had to be included to win support from the Senate Republican Steering Committee. She said she still believes that the bill could move forward this year. Johnson and "others have pinned slim hopes on the chance that the House could ... meet in a lame-duck session," Indian Country Today reports. "If there is a vehicle to move it on, we are going to continue to push through the Indian health care bill. We haven't given up," she said (Indian Country Today, 10/17). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.