By Elizabeth L. Harrison, Communications Manager
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King
We have all seen firsthand how America’s flawed health care system hurts our clients, our colleagues, our friends and our families. Because the YWCA is committed to racial justice, we also recognize that some Americans face more challenges than others when accessing and receiving health care services. In Montana, American Indians face significant barriers to accessing quality health care, including mistreatment by providers, long drives in bad weather to reach facilities, chronic underfunding of clinics and staff, and cultural differences in communication. These factors have created a health care crisis that demands action.
Of the 33 states with significant Native populations, Montana ranks the highest of any state in uninsured American Indians and the second lowest in the number of American Indians with private insurance. Montana, however, has the highest number of American Indians who report having access to underfunded Indian Health Service (IHS) clinics. IHS clinics serve eligible American Indians regardless of insurance status, but federal funding for these clinics only covers 60% of the need. This underfunding contributes to health disparities for a population that is already disproportionately affected by chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.