Baucus, Tester introduce Indian health care legislation

Bipartisan bill reauthorizes, updates Indian Health Care Improvement Act


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – American Indians in Montana will receive better access to improved health care, under a proposal introduced this week by Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester

Baucus' and Tester's bipartisan legislation will update and provide continued funding for the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA).

The IHCIA, first enacted in 1976, established a framework for making health care services available to American Indians.  The legislation also ended the inconsistent manner in which Indian health care had previously been funded.  The IHCIA, which has greatly improved health conditions, was last reauthorized in 1992.

"One of my top priorities is to provide quality, affordable health care to all Montanans and I support the Indian Health Care bill because it will go a long way towards achieving this for the 66,000 Native Americans in Big Sky Country" said Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over portions of the bill. "While this legislation is long overdue, it's definitely a step in the right direction to providing better health care to Montana's Tribes."

Amongst other things, the IHCIA provides the framework for recruiting and retaining Indian health professionals, improving service delivery, and coordination with Medicaid and SCHIP programs.

Tester, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said the legislation will bring positive change to American Indian communities from coast-to-coast.

"We need to restore hope in Indian Country," Tester said.  "This legislation will allow us to take a long overdue step towards improving the lives of the First Montanans and the First Americans."

Tester and Baucus are joined by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Barack Obama (D-Ill), Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) in introducing the legislation.