They Were Promised Health Care ‘For as Long as the River Is Running’
It’s well-documented that the government’s attempts to meet its obligations to the Native Americans have failed miserably; the primary cause is insufficient funding. Currently, prisoners receive significantly higher per capita health-care funding than Native Americans. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports the federal government spends about $5,000 per capita each year on health care for the general U.S. population, $3,803 on federal prisoners and $1,914 on Indian health care.
One of the most pressing inequities of the federal government’s attempts to meet these obligations, according to advocates such as the National Indian Health Board, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., is that while the biggest federal health and safety-net programs such as Medicare, Social Security and veterans’ health are protected from sequestration cuts, the IHS is not. It stands to lose 5 percent of its $4 billion budget this year, a percentage that is expected to increase next year if sequestration continues, IHS administration officials say. These cuts will be devastating for many tribes.