2001-02-28 / Seniors

Senior Spotlight

By John Toscano


Schumer Calls For Larger Mammogram Payments To Cut Mammogram Wait

A few years ago a two-week wait was usually required before a woman could get a mammogram screening, but last year, United States Senator Charles Schumer said last week, the waiting period had ballooned to 10 weeks.

Schumer thinks the reason for the lengthened delay is that Medicare isn’t paying medical clinics enough to do the mammograms. This suggests that low reimbursement has caused the clinics to eliminate jobs and otherwise cut corners.

To remedy the situation, Schumer said he’s introducing a bill requiring Medicare to pay clinics more for the mammogram tests they perform.

Presently, he said, the Medicare reimbursement in New York City is about $70 on average. But the clinical cost for a mammogram is between $120 and $140.

Schumer’s bill would raise the medicare reimbursement here to equal the nationwide average of about $90 to $100 or to exceed that amount.

Schumer stated that if breast cancer is detected early, it can be treated successfully. "That means," he continued, "mammograms must be affordable and accessible, and far too often they are not."

Schumer’s bill also would offer incentives to correct shortages of students opting for careers in the radiology field. He said if new doctors are not attracted to radiology it will mean that fewer people will perform mammograms, among other necessary tests "and we won’t continue to make new gains in the fight against breast cancer."

VETS WIN MAJOR CASE: According to a New York Times story which appeared last Wednesday, a federal court has ruled that the U.S. government must provide free lifetime medical care to certain veterans of World War II and the Korean War who had been promised such care if they served in the armed forces for a minimum of 20 years.

The decision was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has jurisdiction over cases involving government contract claims.

The case involved two veterans, one of whom served 36 years in the Navy and Air Force, and the other who served 26 years in the Army and Air Force.

Their attorney said he was trying to have the case certified as a class action, in which case it might apply to about three million veterans and their spouses. The cost to the government would be in the billions.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said no decision to appeal the ruling had been made.

In an opinion accompanying the decision, Chief Judge H. Robert Mayor wrote, "The government made an unambiguous offer of free lifetime health care, and the retirees accepted that offer by their performance of career military service."

At another point, Mayer said, "The retirees entered active duty and completed at least 20 years’ service on the good faith belief that the government would fulfill its promises. The terms of the contract were set when the retirees entered the service and fulfilled their obligation. The government cannot unilaterally amend the contract terms now."

Government lawyers acknowledged that military recruiters had made the offer, but said they didn’t have the authority to bind the government to it.

The government reduced veterans’ eligibility for free health care in 1956 and again in 1966. As a result, veterans and their dependents must rely on Medicare, which now charges a $50-a-month premium or $600 a year, plus copayments and in some cases, parts of doctors’ fees not covered by Medicare.

ELDER ABUSE: A support group for elderly victims of abuse will be held in the near future, with attention focused on various forms of elder abuse and how to avoid and prevent them. The sessions will be sponsored by the Elder Crime Victims Resource Center of the city’s Department for the Aging (DFTA) and the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA).

DFTA Commissioner Herbert Stupp describes elder abuse as going beyond pain or injury and gravitating toward psychological or emotional abuse, financial abuse and neglect. In most of the cases, the abuser is a family member, usually a child or a spouse, Stupp says. He estimates that each year one of every 20 older Americans is a victim of abuse. Since most of these are not reported because of fear or shame, seniors are being offered the support group to share their experiences in a confidential setting.

For information about the support group or services available to abused seniors, call DFTA at (212) 442-3103 during business hours. To receive a pamphlet, "Elder Abuse Hurts," call (212) 442-1111.

MEETING: AARP Chapter 2889 will meet next Wednesday, Mar. 7th, at 12:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, 54-05 Seabury St., Elmhurst.

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