2007-07-25 / Health Care

Weiner: Increased Medicare Coverage Needed To Keep Mammogram Clinics Operating


Despite the established effectiveness of yearly mammograms in fighting breast cancer, there has been a sharp decline in the percentage of women getting them, Congressmember Anthony Weiner stated as he announced introduction of legislation to reverse the disturbing trend.

Weiner (D- Queens/Brooklyn) said that the root of this decline has been the alarming rate at which mammogram facilities are closing down because of a combination of factors.

To try to solve the problem, Weiner will propose a bill to increase Medicare reimbursement payment for mammogram coverage.

"The increased reimbursement rate is long overdue in order to make sure that practitioners no longer lose money performing mammograms and stay in the field to maintain an adequate workforce supply than can screen patients," the lawmaker declared.

Increased Medicare reimbursement, he explained, has an impact throughout the insurance market because private plans use these rates as a baseline for their negotiations with employees.

Weiner pointed out, "New advancements in technology and treatment for breast cancer have given women a better chance than ever to survive breast cancer. However, stagnation as the result of closures and wait times have hindered these achievements. The time has come to reverse this trend."

Citing statistics, Wiener said that this year, more than 240,500 new breast cancer cases will be detected in women throughout the U.S. and one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women 40 years of age and older should have a mammogram every year. "Early detection through mammograms can give women hope by significantly increasing their chance of survival from breast cancer," the lawmaker pointed out.

Over the last seven years, due to better technology, the number of breast cancer cases that have been diagnosed has increased by 20 percent, but the percentage of women receiving mammograms has been on the decline since 2000 because so many mammogram facilities are closing down.

Besides facilities closing, wait times for mammogram appointments at hospitals and clinics have increased. A survey of facilities in Queens and their wait times done by Weiner's office staff,found that waiting time at area hospitals and radiological facilities ranges from one to four weeks.

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