Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, today joined his colleagues on the committee to pass the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) of 2009, legislation he helped introduce to improve health care in Indian Country. The bill now moves to the Senate floor where Johnson, a cosponsor of the legislation, hopes for swift passage.
“The action by the Indian Affairs Committee today is a crucial step in assuring that American Indians receive the health care they deserve,” Johnson said. “This bill will help us live up to our obligation to help Indian Country. It is long overdue and I hope that the full Senate moves quickly on passing this legislation.”
The IHCIA of 2009 would permanently reauthorize Indian health care programs. The legislation, originally authorized in 1976 and last reauthorized in 1992, provides health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives to help fulfill the U.S. Government’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Indian Country.
The last IHCIA expired at the end of Fiscal Year 2001. While the government has still appropriated money for health programs dealing with Native Americans and Alaska Natives since the previous law expired, this legislation would apply standards to ensure the modernization and improvement of health care in Indian Country. The bill will establish new telehealth programs and expand mental health coverage.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Native Americans are 200 percent more likely to die from diabetes than other groups of people.