The long-term funding of a critical diabetes program for Indian Country continues to be in jeopardy and has become an ongoing battle for health care advocates.
The latest in a string of short-term renewals of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, or SDPI, expires on May 22.
Groups like the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), National Congress of American Indians and the National Council of Urban Indian Health have been pushing for the funding for months by lobbying members of Congress to pass a five-year renewal.
“Lawmakers need to hear directly from tribes, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations, urging them to swiftly pass a five-year reauthorization now,” the NIHB said in a newsletter to its supporters last week.
The NIHB said SDPI is one of the most successful public health programs ever implemented.
The group said it helped to reduce rates of end stage renal disease among Native Americans by 54% from 1996 to 2013 and that the rates of diabetic eye disease fell by 50%.
“Not only does SDPI improve and save lives, it also saves millions of taxpayer dollars. A 2019 federal report found that SDPI is responsible for saving Medicare $52 million per year,” the NIHB said.
The NIHB added, in no uncertain terms, that if the renewal doesn’t happen, the health of Native Americans will be in “grave danger,” and health facilities will be forced to cut vital diabetes care services.
“Our youth and adult health education programs would close down. And most importantly, our people’s lives will be lost,” the NIHB said.
The NIHB said Congress was close to passing a five-year renewal in the 2020 budget, but that “special interests got in the way.”
The NIHB has provided a list of resources for those who want to contact Congress.
A list of talking points on SDPI is here.
For a sample letter that can be sent to House members, click here.
To access a sample letter for members of the Senate, go here.
The NIHB is online at nihb.org.