Opinion: U.S. failing to provide Indian health care

"American Indians have access to federally-paid health care based on hundreds of treaties the United States signed with Indian nations, under the accepted federal practice of more than 100 years and as a requirement of the trust responsibility the U.S. owes the Indian nations to care for their welfare. Indians have not, however, received their fair share of federal health care, especially in light of this heightened duty.

Clearly, the United States is not fulfilling its treaty and trustee responsibility to provide health care to American Indian people.

This issue has been brought to the forefront again by the Bush administration’s attempts to block reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. The IHCIA was first enacted into law in 1976 and signed by President Gerald Ford, with the intention of bringing the level of Indian health up to that of the general U.S. population. Since then, presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton have all signed reauthorizations.

The IHCIA expired in 2000 and has been only temporarily funded by Congress and President George W. Bush in the interim. Since 2001, it appears that the White House and the Department of Justice have been opposing its reauthorization. In late 2006, a Justice Department “white paper” that opposed the bill was circulated to conservative Republican Senators. (The department now denies that anyone was authorized to circulate it.) Some Republican senators put a hold on the IHCIA reauthorization bill and thus prevented the bill from being considered in the last days of the 109th Congress."

Get the Story:
Robert J. Miller: Cutting Native Peoples' Health Care (TomPaine.com 3/21)

House Bill:
Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007 (H.R.1328)

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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