American Elephants


The Federal Government is Incapable Of Managing a Health Care System by The Elephant's Child

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About time. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held field hearings in Billings, Montana. And they got an earful from representatives of seven Montana and Wyoming reservations. Rusty Stafne, chairman of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of northeast Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation. said:

We have lost fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and future leaders because they were unable to get the health care they need.

Yvette Roubideaux, acting director of the Indian Health Service said federal health care spending on American Indians lags far behind spending on other groups such as federal employees, who receive almost twice as much on a per-capita basis.

In Montana, life expectancy for Native American women is 62 years, compared to 82 years for white women. Native men have a life expectancy of 56 years in contrast to 75 years for white men. There are 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, with around two million members.

The tribes have been complaining for years about a shortage of trained medical personnel in government-run clinics, misdiagnosed illnesses, denied payments. They described an agency with a bloated bureaucracy that could not perform its basic duty of providing health care for more than 2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Health care is part of the U.S. government’s trust responsibility.

This is not new, but publicity at the same time as the government’s complete failure in the case of America’s veterans may help to get some action. Tuesday’s hearing followed complaints about delayed and poor care on reservations from the Crow Tribe.

Former Indian Affairs Chairman Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota conducted a similar investigation in 2010. Dorgan found that a “chronic state of crisis” plagued health care services for American Indians. Problems included a lack of providers, hospitals at risk of losing their accreditation, improperly licensed staff and missing or stolen narcotics.

This is how bureaucracies work. Hearings are held, complaints registered, apologies, promises, more hearings, investigations, growing files, published reports, and nothing changes, nothing at all. The federal government does almost nothing well, and many things badly. Encouraging an incompetent government to take on more tasks is an exercise in futility.




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