January 18, 2008

Indian Health Care Improvement Act is First Order of Business When Senate Returns January 22

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said Friday the Indian Health Care Improvement Act will be the first order of business when the Senate returns on January 22. The major legislation, which Dorgan and the late Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) authored, would renew and improve a broad range of Indian health programs by directing resources to combat the chronic shortage of health care services in American Indian communities. The bipartisan legislation, S. 1200, is co-sponsored by the Vice-Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and 27 other Senators.
Dorgan said the bill will make important and significant progress in addressing the “bona fide crisis” in health care in tribal communities. The legislation takes a comprehensive approach to improving Indian health care, including:
Authorizing additional tools for tribal communities to address suicide among Indian youth;
Seeking to address the lack of access to health care services, due to limited hours of operation of existing facilities and other factors, by establishing grants for demonstration projects that include a convenient care services program as an alternative means of health care delivery;
Addressing the $1 billion backlog in needed health care facilities, such as alcohol and substance abuse treatment centers, and $1 billion in unmet need for sanitation facilities in tribal communities;
Making permanent a number of successful federal programs providing services to Native Americans in long-term health care, diabetes prevention, and other key areas;
Expanding scholarship and loan programs that encourage more American Indian people to enter health care professions;
“This legislation is very important to the health and well being of Native Americans,” Dorgan said. “It is also an important step in meeting our obligation to provide adequate health care for American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. I am pleased this bill will be at the top of the list for the Senate this year. I look forward to getting it to the President’s desk where I hope he will sign it so we can begin making urgently needed improvements.”