April 22, 2009

Crapo: Facts Show Indian Health Needs Attention

Health problems for Tribal members said to double national averages

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, told Indian Health Service (IHS) Director designate Dr. Yvette Roubideaux that Tribal health concerns should be a top priority and that the evidence for that comes from his home state of Idaho. Crapo met today with Dr. Roubideaux and said, after that meeting which was held in his office on Capitol Hill, that he plans to support her nomination.

Crapo said that, during his recent health care forums in Idaho, he heard testimony from Julia Davis-Wheeler, the Vice-Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. "The statistics on Tribal health in Idaho were sobering," Crapo noted. "According to Ms. Wheeler, the mortality rate of Tribal members under 25 years of age is more than three times the national average. The suicide rate for the same group is twice the national average. Chronic diabetes on reservations is three to seven times the national average. Health care reform in this country must include additional attention on the Indian Health Service."

Crapo told Dr. Roubideaux that he appreciated Ms. Wheeler's testimony, noting that the Indian Health Service spends an average of $1,600 annually per person, compared with $6,000 annually for Medicare beneficiaries and $5,200 annually for veterans.

"Dr. Roubideaux as the director of Indian Health Service and former Idaho Attorney General Larry Echohawk as director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs would bring valuable experience to the table for Tribal members," Crapo added. "These nominees have done their homework for this position-Dr. Roubideaux says having experienced delays as a patient of IHS spurred her to earn her degree as a doctor, and Mr. Echohawk, of course, brings Idaho and western experience to the position at the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

Dr. Roubideaux is a Harvard Medical School graduate; a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her nomination may come before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee this week, and she would then face confirmation by the full Senate.