The Idaho Press Tribune carried a fascinating background report prepared by the AP in yesterdayâ€™s edition. Entitled, â€œPromises, Promises: Indian health careâ€, it looks at how well the federal government has managed to meet its obligations and promises to American Indians dependent upon it for basic health care.
It is a chilling picture, and one every American should read as we enter the hot summer debate over whether the rest of us should turn our lives and families to the care of Obamaâ€™s grand health care vision.
The Indian Health Service system serves almost 2 million Native Americans in 35 states, or is supposed to.
The AP reports one symptomatic story: a little 5 year old girl complained of a stomach ache. The government health clinic workers told her mother that the girl was depressed. The girlâ€™s condition worsened; her family went back 10 times seeking help. After several months, her lung collapsed and she was airlifted to a Denver hospital. There she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Her family wonders with tears what could have been done if she had been diagnosed properly at an earlier stage.
Because of financial constraints, tribal leaders describe the federal system as one of â€œrationed health careâ€.
An official at the Indian Health Service is quoted as saying, â€œDoctors every day in our organization are making decisions about which cataracts are removed, which gall bladders [get]fixed.â€
Under the care of the federal government, Native Americans suffer an infant mortality rate 40% higher than that of white Americans. After Haiti, men on the Rosebud reservation of South Dakota have the lowest life expectancy rate in the Western Hemisphere.Congressional politics and spending priorities are at the core of this travesty, and we all must really question whether these are the people we want in charge of health care for all Americans.
It is understandable that many Americans have wanted to believe in the promises of President Obama, especially in the absence of any credible reform plan from Republicans to solve real and painful problems in our current system. Yet the painful reality is that history shows us the utter inability of the federal government to deliver on such grandiose promises.
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