Oct 7, 2020 - Health

Indian Health Service fights coronavirus with fewer resources

Axios' Caitlin Owens and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.)

Axios' Caitlin Owens (left) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.). Photo: Axios

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) at an Axios event on Wednesday advocated for better technology and more funding for the Indian Health Service to fight the coronavirus, after the lags in care disproportionately affected the death and case rate of Native Americans.

The big picture: The death rates for alcohol-related illnesses, diabetes and liver disease are already three to five times higher for Native Americans, who largely rely on Indian Health Service hospitals, than for other races combined, the New York Times reports.

Mullin, who is Cherokee and grew up in the Indian Health Service, said the system is not funded on the same level as veterans' health care or Medicare or Medicaid, causing a slew of problems for these communities during the pandemic.

  • "IHS is a federal obligation. It’s an obligation but it’s been plagued with low technology, high turnover in areas of specialities and severely underfunded. If you look at the VA or you look at Medicare or Medicaid, just take those three, you see their funding per population. We are funded at a third less."

What's next: Data sharing and telehealth are a few solutions Mullin wants for tribal communities so specialists and hospitals have the resources they need.

Watch the event, Motivating Change: Solving for Health Equities, online at Axios.com.

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