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Obama Authorizes Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act

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On December 26, President Barack Obama signed the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act (H.R.623) into law.

The bill, introduced February 12, 2013, by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), directs the Indian Health Service to transfer a 2.79 acre parcel of federal land located in Anchorage to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, a non-profit corporation that provides tribal healthcare services to thousands of patients in the region.

The passage of the bill will allow the Consortium to strengthen critical healthcare delivery for Alaska Natives by constructing a patient housing facility on the parcel, thus expanding the Consortium’s ability to offer health services to patients, particularly those who live in rural areas and villages that are unconnected to the road system. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium plans for a 170-room housing facility, which will adjoin the Alaska Native Medical Center and provide a temporary living space for Alaska Native patients traveling from rural communities to receive health services in Anchorage. The facility will also allow families to stay closer to their loved ones during difficult times. states a press release by Rep. Young.

Th House passed the bill on October 29, followed by the Senate's unanimous consent on December 20, reported

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski was a vocal advocate of the bill. “The construction of a patient housing facility will allow ANTHC to create a ‘home away from home’ during critical times for Alaska Native families who must remain in Anchorage for loved ones to receive health care services,” Sen. Murkowski said in the release. “I continue to be proud of our Native health leaders and their innovation to expand services with limited resources to achieve ANTHC’s mission that Alaska Native people are the healthiest in the world.”

Sen. Mark Begich echoed her enthusiasm: “The Alaska Tribal Health Consortium provides excellent oversight for the Alaska Native Medical Center--one of the finest medical facilities in the Indian healthcare system. The passage of this bill will enable ANTHC to improve the access to much needed health services for Alaska Natives and Native Americans in Alaska. The new Patient Housing Facility will save ANTHC over $2 million in housing costs per year which can be used towards improving and expanding their health services.”