The Senate Indian Affairs Committee hosted a hearing to learn about suggestions for improving the nations Indian healthcare system. According to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who opened the hearing, estimates show that the Indian Health Servicean HHS agencyis funded at about 52% of need.
We must do something to address the appalling health statistics among Native Americans, Tester said, who added that American Indian women in Montana have a median life expectancy of 64 years, compared with the average of 81 years for the general population. Type 2 diabetes, infant mortality and suicide rates are also higher in the American Indian population as compared with the general population, Tester said.
Paul Carlton, a physician and retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force, testified before the committee about strategies used in Iraq that could be applied to the Indian Health Service to improve services, such as using mobile surgical vans.
The purpose of the hearing is to inform committee members before they draft a concept paper that they will send to tribes for review and reaction, said Barry Piatt, communications director for the committee. That could happen as early as next week, according to Piatt, who said the committee could introduce a new Indian Healthcare Improvement Act next month. Last year, the Senate passed the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act, but the House did not approve the bill.