Thursday, February 15, 2007

Health Care Apartheid

My teenage memories of talking with my grandfather, a World War II veteran, about his struggles with the Veterans Administration (V.A.) health care system bureaucrats came rushing back to me today when I read the Alaska section of USA Today's state by state news page. Essentially the American government practices a form of "health care apartheid" by forcing our military veterans to use the sub-standard V.A. system - separate from the system that regular citizens like you and me utilize -- and then extends this apartheid mind set by having "American Indians and Alaska Natives" receive health care services via the Indian Health Service (IHS), another federal government agency: -- an excerpt from the IHS website is copied below:

The Indian Health Service, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The provision of health services to members of federally-recognized tribes grew out of the special government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. This relationship, established in 1787, is based on Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and has been given form and substance by numerous treaties, laws, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. The IHS is the principal federal health care provider and health advocate for Indian people, and its goal is to raise their health status to the highest possible level. The IHS currently provides health services to approximately 1.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to more than 557 federally recognized tribes in 35 states.

USA Today reported today that "about 40 tribal health organizations in Alaska are part of a nationwide $1 billion lawsuit (filed in a New Mexico federal court) " against the IHS which contends that the IHS has "knowlingly shortchanged them each year since the 1990's."

Given the long history of management incompetence and broken promises at the Bureau of Indian Affairs the IHS is probably no different so I would speculate that this "shortchanging" extends many years before the 1990's so I look forward to hearing what this court case uncovers.

Let me say there is a much better solution than a court case since our court system is overburden already -- let's end our health care apartheid system by having the US Congress phase out the IHS with a full distribution of any remaining funds to the "557 federally recognized tribes" noted on the IHS website. Get the money into the pockets of the natives and let them CHOOSE what health care insurance, doctors, or alternative medical solutions they want to pursue for their own well being. Our country has kept these native groups isolated from the mainstream American community for too many years -- let's reduce government by eliminating the IHS and empower these 1.5 million Native Americans at the same time.

End the red tape,


No comments: