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DeGette: Congress Must Reauthorize Indian Diabetes Prevention

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Congresswoman Diana DeGette's office.
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Congresswoman Diana DeGette says the budget impasse and looming fiscal cliff in Washington poses a threat to the future of a popular federal program that aims to curb rising diabetes rates among Native Americans.

DeGette (D-Colo) made the comments Tuesday during a keynote speech at a meeting of the National Indian Health Board that runs most of this week in Denver. 

"The bad news is, in case you haven’t noticed, this is one of the most partisan Congress’s ever," DeGette said. "The good news is this doesn’t seem to spill over to diabetes issues in general."

In the late 1990s, DeGette co-sponsored legislation creating the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, or SDPI, a $2 billion federal effort that funds prevention and treatment programs and medical research in Colorado and 34 other states.   Rates of diabetes among American Indian and Alaska natives are disproportionately higher than the national average. 

DeGette, whose own daughter has type 1 diabetes, is part of a small, bi-partisan group of lawmakers that plans to request $200 million for the program over the next five years when Congress reconvenes in a lame duck session after the election.  The SDPI is set to expire next year. 

DeGette says reauthorizing the program would eventually curb health care costs overall.

"If we can prevent the complications of diabetes through this program and other programs than we will save ourselves billions of dollars of health care costs in our system, in addition to all of the human pain and suffering," DeGette said in her speech.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.