Opinion: Indian Health Service still underfunded
"How long you live should not depend on how rich you are. But recent studies show that richer you are, the longer you live.

For American Indians, this is not news. Nearly a third of our people live in poverty, compared with 12 percent of the rest of the country, and we suffer alarming gaps in life expectancy. In Arizona, where I live, the average age at death is 72.2 years for the general population and 54.7 years for American Indians. Even people in Bangladesh and Ghana live longer.

Death rates from preventable causes like diabetes, alcoholism and mental illness are dramatically higher among American Indians than the rest of the population. Despite this gross inequality, American Indians are the only population born with a legal right to health care in this country.

The treaties between tribal nations and the federal government involved exchanges of vast amounts of Indian land and natural resources for federal guarantees of social services, including housing, education and health care. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service were established to administer the federal government's trust responsibility to provide health care and other vital services to American Indians. But today the Indian Health Service is underfunded to the tune of $2 billion.

Relative to the entire federal budget of $3.1 trillion, $2 billion is a tiny investment in Indian health. This is not a question of money. It's a question of priorities."

Get the Story:
Donald Warne: Feds owe Indians health care (The Spokesman Review 6/4)

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