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Reuthorization of health care goes to the floor in both chambers

WASHINGTON - The principal committees of jurisdiction in both the House of Representatives and the Senate brought the Indian Health Care Improvement Act before their full chambers in late April.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced the Senate reauthorization April 25 and spoke in its behalf on the Senate floor. In a departure from versions of the bill that have been introduced in previous Congresses, Dorgan said, ''I have added new provisions to this year's Indian health bill that seek to address the lack of access to health care services that exists in so many tribal communities, which may be due to limited hours of operation at existing health care facilities or other factors. The bill would allow grants for demonstration projects which include a convenient care services program as an additional means of health care delivery.''

In the House, the Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to make its version of health care reauthorization the first Native-specific bill to move out of the committee in the current 110th Congress. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the committee chairman, said IHCIA is the primary source of medical care for 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. ''Yet it has not been reauthorized in 15 years, keeping the programs far out of pace with the dire needs of health service recipients throughout the Native communities that rely on these services.'' House Bill 1328 will improve the IHCIA, first enacted in 1991, through a series of amendments, Rahall said. He described their purposes as follows:

"Aid in the recruitment and retention of medical professionals for the Indian health programs.

"Authorize more efficient and cost-effective methods of health care delivery.

"Allow greater roles of tribes in the delivery of health care and the setting of local priorities.

"Provide innovative options for the funding of the IHS.

"Consolidate substance abuse, mental health and social service programs into a central system.

"Amend the Social Security Act to improve access to Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

FBI raid drives Renzi from Natural Resources

WASHINGTON - Rep. Rick Renzi has stepped off the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives, following the FBI raid of his family business in Arizona April 19. Newspapers in Arizona and on Capitol Hill reported that the raid involved a proposed swap of public lands and enacted legislation that favored a Renzi campaign contributor, but public details are sketchy. Renzi has denied any wrongdoing.

The three-term Arizona Republican had emerged as a strong voice on Native issues in the current 110th Congress. Natural Resources is the principal committee of jurisdiction on Native affairs in the House.

'Routine' meetings are progress for NAGPRA

WASHINGTON - A series of meetings in Washington held April 18 - 20 among museum officials, scholars and Native community members on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act were described by a participant as routine but productive.

''I do think it's progress because NAGPRA, which was once a radical idea, is part of the landscape,'' said Vincas Steponaitis, director of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina and a member of the Interior Department's National NAGPRA Review Committee. ''Ninety-nine percent of what happens under NAGPRA is consensual and amicable. Basically, tribes and museums are working together now under NAGPRA.''