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Opinion
Sen. Dorgan: Good news and bad news for tribes


"This year, Congress had both good news and bad news for Indian country.

The good news was very good. Congress approved and sent to the president the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2008.

That’s the law that authorizes basic housing programs in Indian country. It expired in 2007. Getting it back on the books was an urgent priority.

Unfortunately, though, it was not all good news coming from Congress this year on legislation important to Indian country.

A huge disappointment was the failure of Congress to send the president the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2008. We passed it in the Senate, where I chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, but it did not clear the House of Representatives.

The need for this legislation was just as urgent as the Indian housing bill. It may surprise many non-Indians – but few Indians – to learn that access to adequate health care for Native Americans is in such crisis that we literally have health care rationing in Indian country. Only 60 percent of American Indian health care needs are met. There’s a saying on many reservations that “if you’re going to get sick, do it before July,” because that’s when the IHS often runs out of contract health money to treat Indian men, women and children."

Get the Story:
Sen. Byron Dorgan: Progress in Congress, but more work needed (Indian Country Today 10/29)