Arizona Republic Reports on Indian Health Service
The Arizona Republic yesterday reported on the state of health care for Native Americans, who have a mortality rate up to seven times higher than that of other Americans, as well as higher rates of disease. In Arizona, the average life expectancy for Native Americans is 55 years, compared to 72 years for whites. Further, the rate of tuberculosis is five times worse for Native Americans than whites, and the rate of diabetes among Native Americans is the "worst ... in the world." Mortality rates from heart disease and cancer are increasing for Native Americans, while the rates for other Americans are improving. HHS' Indian Health Service provides health services for approximately 1.5 million Native Americans and has a budget of $3.2 billion. But according to a study compiled by a group of tribal and Indian health leaders, IHS would need to spend more than $7 billion per year to provide care comparable to what other Americans receive and more than $15 billion per year to "add and improve facilities to make the system equal." IHS spends approximately $1,920 per Native American per year, compared to the more than $4,390 private health plans budget per beneficiary. The federal government spends about $3,859 per Medicaid beneficiary, $5,600 per Medicare beneficiary and more than $5,700 per veteran. Federal funding of IHS has "remained nearly flat" over the last few years, even as the Native American population has grown by 1% to 2% per year and medical costs have risen about 10% to 12% a year. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) intends to request an additional $4.4 billion for IHS this year. But Dr. Stephen Kunitz, a professor of community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, said, "If Congress in its wisdom, or malevolence, or thoughtlessness holds funding [for the IHS] constant or at a 1% to 2% increase, things will get worse" (Nichols, Arizona Republic, 4/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.