Indian Health Care Improvement Act improves quality of life

Signed back into law in 2010, this law sets up many provisions that are beneficial to indigenous populations across the country.

There has been a long history of indigenous populations residing in Michigan. There are currently 12 federally-recognized tribes in Michigan who coordinate various levels of health care services to address the needs of their citizens, families and community members. President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010, which permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA).

IHCIA authorizes many specific Indian Health Service (IHS) activities to be administered to American Indians and sets health condition goals for the IHS service population to reduce “incidence of preventable illnesses among, and unnecessary and premature deaths of, Indians.” Indian Health Services (IHS) is located within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which provides health care for approximately 2 million eligible American Indians/Alaska Natives through a system of programs and facilities located on or near Indian reservations, and through contractors in certain urban areas.

The reauthorization of IHCIA increases the number and type of programs that provide behavioral health, substance abuse and various health care programs/treatment to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The IHCIA is also required to raise Indian and urban Indian health status to that set forth in 2010 by Healthy People, an organization that provides science-based national objectives for improving health. 

Additional program areas addressed in the IHCIA include Diabetes prevention and treatment, long-term care and cancer screening. The IHCIA also permits “access to health services,” which authorizes IHS health care facilities to receive reimbursements from SSA’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. These reimbursements are used to augment services received at IHS-funded facilities because IHCIA excludes Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements from being considered when determining annual Indian health appropriations.

IHCIA authorizes:

  • Specific Indian Health Service (IHS) activities
  • Sets national policy for IHS
  • Sets goals to reduce preventable illnesses and premature deaths

For American Indians and Alaska Natives, the reauthorization:

  • Expands programs that seek to augment the health care workforce
  • Increases services available at facilities funded by IHS
  • Increases programs that provide behavioral health and substance abuse treatment

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