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Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that new legislation is needed to increase reimbursement rates for Medicare-funded mammograms and that doing so will decrease the waiting time for women who need them.

Schumer held a news conference to announce he is co-sponsoring a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that would raise Medicare reimbursement rates significantly to reflect the cost of the procedure in New York.

The mammograms generally cost $120 to $140 in New York City and average $100 elsewhere in the state. Medicare now reimburses less than $70 of the amount.

As a result, Schumer said, many centers have stopped offering screenings, and those that do have waiting lists of several months.

The bill would raise rates by as much as $30 a screening and increase federal subsidies to provide incentives for medical students to pursue careers in radiology.

Schumer said several local mammogram clinics were forced to close recently because they could not afford to remain open.

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