WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a rally in the Capitol today, Senator Murkowski, the Vice-Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, joined the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), to urge the Senate to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. More than a dozen Alaskans attended the rally. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act was last authorized in 1992 and expired in 2001. In June 1999 a National Steering Committee, including many prominent Alaskan Native leaders, was born with the mission of bringing Indian Country together to speak with one voice about the reauthorization of the Act. Senator Murkowski praised the committee for their persistence in keeping the issue before Congress these many years. Senator Murkowski is a co-sponsor of S.1200, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization bill in the current Congress. The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on May 10 and was considered and passed by the Senate Finance Committee today. The bill now will head to the Senate floor. “The Indian Health Care Improvement Act is crucial to the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Senator Murkowski. “The bill is the product of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of hours of work by our tribal leaders. It is a bill that all of Indian Country can be proud of and indeed one that enjoys broad support from all corners of Indian Country. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take action that is long overdue.” According to Indian Health Service statistics, American Indians and Alaska Natives die at higher rates than other Americans from tuberculosis, alcoholism, motor vehicle crashes, diabetes, unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide.