GAO: Health care access hard to measure for Native Americans - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

GAO: Health care access hard to measure for Native Americans

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Federal investigators say access to health care for American Indians is difficult to gauge because the agency that oversees it does a poor job of tracking patient wait times.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report released Thursday says long wait times are a known problem at Indian Health Service facilities. One facility on the Navajo Nation reported that new patients have waited up to four months to see a physician and a month for a routine vision check.

Officials with the Indian Health Service say they've struggled to provide timely care because of staffing shortages and outdated equipment.

The agency serves about 2 million American Indians, a population that suffers disproportionately from illnesses including diabetes and chronic liver disease.

Federal investigators says those disparities can be improved through better access to primary care services.

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