Opinion: Urban Indians being denied health care

"New Mexico has the one of the largest populations of American Indians in the country. Nearly 50,000 call Albuquerque home, ranking it third in the nation among cities with the highest percentage of Indians. Given these facts, it seems New Mexico would serve as a model for the rest of the nation in its approach to the health care delivery system for Indians.

Sadly, Indians living in New Mexico struggle to access services in a health care delivery system riddled with broken processes and broken promises.

Despite its obligation to provide health care to Indian people, the federal government continues to abrogate its responsibility by underfunding programs and reducing services. Increasingly, Indian people find themselves reliant on federal entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Medicare or forced to declare themselves indigent to qualify for financial assistance at already overburdened local hospitals.

Indian people relinquished their tribal lands to the United States in exchange for a variety of services, including housing, education and health care. In essence, it was the first prepaid health insurance policy. Health care for Indians is not charity. It is a legal obligation based on a long history of Supreme Court decisions, treaties and legal precedence."

Get the Story:
John Lewis and Keith Franklin: Lawmakers must ensure all American Indians have access to health care (The Albuquerque Tribune 3/14)

Relevant Documents:
Letter to President Bush | Letter to Alberto Gonzales | DOJ White Paper

Relevant Links:
Indian Health Service - http://www.ihs.gov
National Indian Health Board - http://www.nihb.org

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