Retired cops handcuffed by medical crisis - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

5.14.03

Retired cops handcuffed by medical crisis

They earned a living protecting one of the world's toughest cities, but years later, some former New York City cops find themselves handcuffed by an unseen enemy.

"You give them your whole life, your youth and they turn around and don't take care of you when you retire," said Jim Salvi, one of more than 70 retried NYC cops living in this area.

Salvi has severe heart trouble, costing him thousands in medical bills.

Jim Kenny once locked-up drug dealers in Harlem. These days, he and his wife Martha must drive back to New York to find a specialist who will take their insurance.

"I was supposed to go to a cardiologist months ago. I haven't been. I can't afford to go," Kenny said.

The problem?

All other New York City employers, past and present, are covered by group health insurance, or GHI. Plenty of doctors in New York may take it, but hardly any in this region do. The few who do are mostly general practitioners, and don't know how long they can keep it up.

"Basically, we just consider it community service," said Wilmington Dr. Peter Kramer. "We don't make enough to cover our costs."

GHI's re-imbursement rates for doctors are some of the lowest in the country, sometimes 30%less than those set by Medicare. That leaves the retirees stuck with the rest of the bill, which can take them years to pay.

Because of pre-existing medical conditions, it's almost impossible for many of them to switch insurance.

"That's exactly it. I'm stuck with GHI," Salvi said.

Plus, GHI only allows individual doctors, not entire groups, to participate, leaving even fewer willing to join.

"I don't see us winning this fight. Not in my lifetime anyway," Kenney said.

It's a painful outcome for one-time protectors, left to grow old feeling unprotected.

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