Washington, D.C.– The House Republican majority today decided to block a measure offered by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva that would have preserved the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) even if the Republican effort to repeal last year’s health care reform law is successful. Grijalva yesterday proposed to the House Rules Committee an amendment to the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would have maintained the IHCIA, which the law reauthorized for the first time in eight years.
The Committee disallowed any amendments to the bill (HR 2).
Indian Health Services (IHS) has historically been underfunded and has not been able to keep up with tribal health needs. The IHCIA was enacted to ensure that American Indians receive needed health care services. Grijalva has been fighting alongside Native groups for nearly a decade to reauthorize the program. The ACA included a full reauthorization of the law, giving Native communities the chance to expand coverage and improve access through broader health reforms.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also repeal the IHCIA. Grijalva objected to that move before the Committee for the following reasons:
· Nearly 30 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives are without health coverage
· American Indians are under-enrolled in public programs like Medicaid.
· Indian health programs have historically experienced difficulty recruiting and retaining staff.
· IHS health care facilities are, on average, more than 30 years old.
· IHS and tribal facilities previously lacked the authority to provide proper cancer screenings.
“The ongoing debate about whether health care is a right or a privilege does not apply to Indian Country,” Grijalva said. “American Indians and Alaska Natives are the only citizens of the United States who are born with a legal right to health care. The federal obligation to provide health services to members of federally recognized tribes should not be a political football.”
Republican leaders have announced no plans to address Native health care issues should repeal go forward.