Indian Health Service Facilities Do Not Provide Adequate Access to Care, GAO Report Finds
Many government-funded Indian Health Service facilities do not provide American Indians adequate access to health care, according to a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office, the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. IHS has an annual budget of about $2.6 billion and offers health care services to American Indians and Alaska Natives in 35 states, the AP/Pioneer Press reports.
The report found that the agency's services for behavioral health, specialty dental care and nonurgent conditions, such as arthritis, allergies and chronic pain, were insufficient at many of its facilities. Most IHS facilities lacked necessary equipment for ancillary services and had few medical specialists on site, the report said.
In addition, many American Indians and Native Alaskans do not have means of transportation and are unable to travel long distances to the facilities to receive care, the report says. Patients also faced long wait times between the scheduling of an appointment and delivery of service, according to the report.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) -- chair and ranking Democrat of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, respectively -- commissioned the report. According to Dorgan, IHS is "dramatically underfunded" by Congress. While the report is "not surprising," it still is a "big disappointment," he added (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/4).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.