I believe improving Indian Health Care is an important issue, which is why I have helped introduce the Indian Health Care Improvement Act in the past several Congresses. This bill would revise the previous Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) and extend health care services for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
American Indians and Alaska Natives have a life expectancy that is six years less than the national average and a rate of diabetes that is disproportionately higher than the national average. The priority of this bill is to ensure that the health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives is raised to the same level that is set for other Americans. Previously lower established thresholds have been accepted in the past, and this has undermined the standard of health care provided.
The Indian Health Care Improvement Act provides the opportunity for Indians to set forth their health care priorities and make goals that reflect what they need. There would also be a policy which requires consultation with Indian tribes, tribal health organizations, and urban Indian programs to create the best and most effective health care system for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The need for the construction of new health care facilities and the renovation and expansion of existing facilities is also addressed in this bill. Additionally, the General Accounting Office will be required to prepare a report which outlines the needs of the Indian Health Service, Indian Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations with updates to be made every five years.
The Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act was included as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was signed into law on March 23, 2010. I was disappointed to see the Indian Health Care legislation bundled together with a bill I could not support. In the 112th Congress, I introduced H.R. 215, which would repeal the PPACA while leaving the Indian Health Care legislation intact. I remain committed to improving Indian Health Care and look forward to addressing this issue in my capacity as Chairman of the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee.