U.S. Sens. Tina Smith, Lisa Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Health Care Services for Native American Elders

Senators Push for More Resources to Address Health Disparities Facing American Indians and Alaska Natives

U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—both members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—introduced a bipartisan bill to expand health care services to Native American elders in Minnesota, Alaska and across the country.

The Strengthening Services for Native Elders Act would help tribal organizations provide a wider range of home and community-based health services to American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) elders, including transportation, case management, and health and wellness programs.

Right now there are more than 26 million AIAN adults over age 65 living in the United States and too many are facing significant health disparities. These elders are more likely to confront mortality at a younger age, and have higher mortality rates due to alcoholism, diabetes and suicide than the general population. These elders are also more likely to live in poverty and lack access to health care.

“Tribal elders in Minnesota and across the country should be able to age with dignity in their own homes and communities while still maintaining access to quality health care,” said Sen. Smith, a member of both the Senate Indian Affairs and Health Committees. “Given these health disparities and our responsibility to tribal elders, the federal government must do more to improve access to health care. I’ll be working to push this bill forward because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I’ve been working on various initiatives to help create a stronger, more inclusive healthcare system for America’s aging population. We’ve made good progress in identifying and addressing some of the gaps in services—but there’s more to be done,” said Sen. Murkowski. “Tribal elders face unique and significant health disparities compared to America’s general population. The provisions included in this bill will go a long way in prioritizing the health and wellness of Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and American Indian elders. Whether they live in an urban hub or a remote, isolated village, Alaska’s aging population deserves access to high quality, culturally relevant healthcare services.”

You can access a summary of the bill here and bill text here.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska, Health