There are two bills sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives that the National Indian Health Board and others are keeping a close eye on. Both affect funding for programs that target diabetes issues for Native Americans.
The bills – H.R. 2680 (Special Diabetes Program for Indians or SDPI) and H.R. 2668 (Special Diabetes Program or SDP) – have recently been introduced by members of the House.
Diabetes programs are of particular importance to Native American communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that American Indians and Alaska Natives have a greater chance of getting diabetes than any other U.S. racial group.
With the increased risk come greater health complications and higher health care costs.
The SDPI renewal bill would fund the program for five years at $200 million per year, marking its first funding increase in 15 years. Congress has historically renewed SDPI in one to three year increments at $150 million per year.
“[SDPI] reflects two longstanding Tribal goals for the program that NIHB has worked to achieve: long term reauthorization and a funding increase,” the National Indian Health Board said in a recent statement.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-AZ, introduced the H.R. 2680 renewal legislation.
“This short term renewal process has caused uncertainty for Tribal grantees and makes long term planning difficult,” the NIHB statement continued. “Despite short-term renewals and stagnant funding, SDPI has well documented success in Indian Country.”
NIHB said there are more than 300 grantees receiving SDPI funding.
The NIHB estimates that over the life of the SDPI program, the incidence of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) among American Indians and Alaska Natives has fallen by 54% – the largest decline for any national demographic.
“This has led to tremendous cost savings, as for every year a person is kept off of dialysis treatment for ESRD, Medicare saves $88,000 per patient,” the NIHB statement said.
The NIHB said that SDPI empowers Tribes, Tribal organizations and urban Indian groups to develop their own programs at the community level to prevent and treat diabetes.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-CO, introduced H.R. 2668, also a renewal bill, which funds programs researching type-1 diabetes treatment. That bill also increases SDP funding to $200 million.
NIHB is monitoring the bills along with partners that include the American Diabetes Association, Endocrine Society, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the National Council of Urban Indian Health.
The groups recently asked members of Congress to sign their names on a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, in support of the program.
Out of 435 members in the House, at least 376 have signed the letter – a strong bipartisan show of support for the difference the programs are making in Indian Country, NIHB said.
NIHB is now urging their supporters to call their respective members of Congress and urge them to support both bills.
The Washington, D.C.-based NIHB represents Tribal governments — both those that operate their own health care delivery systems through contracting and compacting – and those receiving health care directly from the Indian Health Service.
More information is at nihb.org.