Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Here’s how a $1.7 trillion spending bill would affect Native Americans

The money, included in a massive government spending bill awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature, would boost access to healthcare for Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

The US House of Representatives approved the measure on Friday to avoid a government shutdown and provide more certainty to the federal agency that provides health care to more than 2.5 million people.

A coalition of lawmakers from Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, California and elsewhere fought to include advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service in the bill, a first for the chronically underfunded agency, as a way to ensure that The bar was marked that the services should continue in case of possibility. Money related problems.

With the legislation, the Indian Health Service (IHS) joins other federal health care programs that receive funding in advance, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Health Administration.

“This will ensure patients are not subject to the uncertainty of the government funding process, saving lives and building stronger, healthier communities,” Representative Sharice Davids, D-Kan., said in a statement.

“With increased funding for education, housing and economic development, this bill brings us closer to upholding our federal trust and treaty obligations to American Indian and Alaska Native communities.”

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., said tribal health centers are the main source of health care for Native people in his district. He described the inclusion of advance funds for IHS as a historic step.

The IHS, which runs two dozen hospitals and about 100 other clinics nationwide, has been the focus of repeated congressional hearings and government reports demanding reform.

The House Native American Caucus, in a letter sent earlier this month, urged the Biden administration, IHS and tribal nations to work to move away from discretionary funding.

The bill would also allow the government to issue work permits to millions of immigrants that would allow them to temporarily reside in the US.

Lawmakers pointed to a 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office that showed per capita spending for the IHS more than two-thirds of the $13,185 spent by Medicare. Inadequate funds have resulted in persistent shortage of staff, limited equipment availability, long waiting times and other problems, he said.

More recently, a GAO report released in March said that outdated facilities, few hospital beds and a shortage of health care providers have made the agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic even more challenging.

The IHS received more than $9 billion in COVID-19 relief funds, which it used to address immediate and long-standing needs, but some members of Congress have argued that the agency’s overall budget should go toward tribal Should be in line with the actual needs of the communities.

Advocates have also argued that every time Congress passes a continuing resolution to keep the government running, IHS has to modify hundreds of contracts to accommodate the available funds.

During the latest government shutdown, the National Council for Urban Indigenous Health noted that urban Indigenous organizations reported at least five patient deaths and significant disruptions to patient services as some clinics were forced to close their doors Was.

Nation World News Desk
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