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Medill: Indian Health Care Improvement Act expires

"If Native American advocate Kennith Scott could time travel back to 1978, he would. It was an era when he was just starting to fight for better Native American health care and the efforts won services for thousands of people who had left reservation to live in cities.

Now, Congress has failed to extend the Indian American Health Care Act, which expires Jan. 1 and provides funding for urban Native Americans. Without action by Congress in spring, Chicago's American Indian Health Services may have to cut more services or even close, according to Scott, executive director. The center is the only one of its kind in the city.

“The economy’s changed,” said Scott, a member of the Choctaw tribe. And the continuing failure of Congress to extend the federal Indian Health Care Improvement Act only adds to the financial problems faced by the center and Native Americans.

Early this year, President Bush threatened to veto the act, which would have extended federal funding for urban Native American health care centers for the next nine years. Bush never got the chance, however, as the act failed in the U.S. House of Representatives in September after approval in the Senate.

“It became a tug of war between the right-to-life and the right-to-choose,” Scott said, since there was a proposed amendment to allow Native American health services to perform abortions with the federally provided funding.

That amendment may be deleted from reworked legislative proposals next year, according to the Web site National Council of Urban Indian Health."

Get the Story:
Chicago's American Indian Health Services needs federal legisation to continue care (Medill Reports 12/11)