Saturday 9 January 2010

Saturday SoapBlog: Alison Alloway - Medicare rebate for MRI breast scans

Over Christmas Westcourt's Alison Alloway watched as her beautiful Cascara tree (Indian laburnam) flowered into a stunning yellow shower. It is an annual symbolic reminder of the beauty around her.
This week Alison takes the CairnsBlog SoapBlog as she shares her campaign to have the Medicare rebate for MRI breast scans extended to women over the age of 50 years.
As a local businesswoman, Alison shares some insights about the ongoing difficulties of cancer patients. Alison survived her first bout of cancer in 2001, and is again undergoing tests to determine whether she has a second cancer. She was one of the inaugural members of COUCH, the community group which successfully lobbied State and Federal Governments for a radiotherapy unit in Cairns.

She writes an open letter to Jim Turnour MP, Federal Member for Leichhardt. For Alison, it's personal.

Currently, women in the 50+ age group are denied any rebate from Medicare, should they be recommended by their specialist, to undergo an MRI test.
The scheduled fee for this service is $690, quite a considerable sum.

The current eligibility criteria for a rebate, introduced by the Federal Government from 1st February 2009 specifically targets "women less than 50 years of age, with no signs or symptoms of breast cancer, but who are at high risk of breast cancer."

The "high risk of breast cancer" is defined in a further set of criteria, including "three or more first or second degree relatives, on the same side of the family, who have been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer."

I understand the bureaucratic reasoning behind the age limitations are that "existing mammograms perform less well in women under 50 years of age, due to their density of breast tissue and an MRI may produce better results. For women over 50 whose breast density has reduced with age, mammograms have proven to perform well."

As an older woman, 50 years plus, I was recently referred for an MRI breast scan by a specialist Doctor at Breastscreen Queensland.
I was referred for further testing because previous mammograms and ultrasound could not distinguish whether a lesion was cancerous or not. I have a previous history of breast cancer and have two sisters who have had the disease as well as several first degree relatives who have either survived or succumbed to the disease.

Despite the necessity for the MRI as a complimentary procedure to determine a new breast cancer, and despite my own high risk of breast cancer, I was denied any Medicare rebate for the MRI for which I was require to pay $350 cash.

My own research has revealed this is a low-cost compared to other centres where up to $670 can be charged for a Breast MRI Scan.

My concerns are that the sheer costs of MRIs is a deterrent to women over the age of 50, who are generally easing out of the workforce, or who may have a retired partner. I believe it true to state that older women, as a whole, may not have the income support of women under the age of 50. In fact, income support levels tend to decline as people age.

This places the ageing woman at a great disadvantage, as the incidence of breast cancer significantly increase with age.
The claim that "mammograms have proven to perform well for women over the age of 50 whose breast density has reduced with age" is a sweeping generalisation which does not take into account that women are individuals and with individual bodies. Not all women over the age of 50 have lost their breast density, and mammograms have their limitations.

I would therefore respectfully seek that Jim Turnour undertakes representations with the Federal Minister for Health, the Hon Nicola Roxon, to extend the eligibility criteria for a Medicare Rebate for MRI Breast Scans to women over the age of 50.

  • If you would like to get on the CairnsBlog SoapBlog, drop me an email telling me the story you need to get off your breast, I mean chest.


Bryan Outlaw said...

It seems that the statistical reasoning behind the refusal of Medicare to pay for an MRI in this case is sound. The reality is that no one can have every single test they think they want - this would financially collapse the Medicare system.

What happened to personal responsibility? Clearly $350 isn't going to break anyone if they want to order the test on their own. The government can't, and shouldn't be expected to pay for everything.

Alison Alloway said...

Well done Mike. Thank you.

Lexi Fried Rice said...

Alison, it's yourself you should be thanking. YOu have made a strong argument here.... I don't know what your prior interaction with Turnour has been like, but you may be an ALP member. Jim sadly will make now move on this at all.

Unless its a media release to read out from Canberra, he can't see how to make his own contribution, nor that of local constitutients like you.

I hope, before the next election, he proves us wrong.

Susan @ Holloways said...

While we're at it, can we order a brain scann for Jim. That might give you an answer Alison.

I won't hold my breath, but can you make a promise to post any reply you get from Jimbo on this blog Alison?

Alison Alloway said...

Bryan Outlaw, no-one can have "every single test" as you so crudely put it. An M.R.I. breast scan must be recommended by a specialist, for a start and this is only done when mammograms and ultrasounds are inconclusive.

Miss Chief. said...

Bryan Outlaw:
I am in receipt of the OAP. I worked all my life to get it. I raised a large family and saving was one thing I never managed to do. YOU try paying private health care cover or for the costs of MRIs etc on the pension! Because I don't have a disposable income as such, does that mean that I am not worthy of decent health care?
I bet if you didn't have much money and doctors suspected testicular cancer, you'd be first in line in the Medicare queue...but then you'd have to have them in the first place, so I guess that's a moot point.

Bryan Outlaw said...

So Miss Chief, you managed to spend every last dollar you got your grubby hands on, didn't save a bit for your retirement, and now expect the rest of us to support you? That's a bit rich. We've got no interest in taking care of those who didn't give a whit about caring for themselves. Like everything, those of us that worked hard and planned for the future get what we deserve, and sadly so do the rest of you that have been bloodsukers most your life.

Bryan Law said...

Miss Chief, testicular cancer is a bad example to use for Mr Outlaw. He never has had any balls.

Miss Chief. said...

B.O (How appropriate is that?)
I raised 5 kids - mostly on my own while working to do it. My retirement money went paying for my late husband's attempts to beat cancer. My hands are clean and my heart is pure - at least I don't spend my time casting stones at people who are less fortunate then myself.
I was too busy caring for others to have money left for the luxury of private health cover. I might add that I saved my country a whole heap of money because I nursed my late husband at home without outside help apart from 3 visits from the Blue Nurses who showed me how to do lymphatic massage. I worked all my adult life...including when I was pregnant, so I've paid my dues. You may call me what you will, but I can never be labelled uncaring or irresponsible.

Unknown said...

"Bryan Outlaw said..

We've got no interest in taking care of those who didn't give a whit about caring for themselves. Like everything, those of us that worked hard and planned for the future get what we deserve."

You're probably one of those arseholes that got rich by exploiting and underpaying others. Or maybe you are a speed dealer, getting rich on the misery of others.

Many working people simply do not make enough money to save anything. It is as simple as that.

While I am fortunate enough to be able to afford private health care, I do not begrudge those who cannot afford it access to free public health.

Judging from your endless stream of nasty, spiteful and mean-spirited comments, I have no doubt at that you will get what you deserve one way or the other.

David B. said...

David says,

I have always been encouraged to have a charitable spirit. If we are fortunate enough to be blessed with wealth, we should be willing to give some of that wealth back to our community. After all, the community gave us that wealth in the first place. And let's face it, not everyone will have the opportunity to be wealthy.

With that in mind, the government should show a charitable spirit to those who are less fortunate.In this case, I am referring to cancer patients who struggle to pay the exorbitant fees associated with their illnesses.

Come on Federal Government, don't be so mean spirited! These people face a death sentence if not treated quickly.