A 26-year-old South Carolina man never thought that when he went to the emergency room complaining of chest pain that doctors would tell him that he had breast cancer, and he never thought he would be denied coverage because he was a man.
Raymond Johnson checked himself into the emergency room last month for a throbbing pain in his chest. He had previously felt a lump there, but assumed it was just a cyst. But when the tests came back, he found out he had cancer.
“I didn’t even know men could get breast cancer,” said Johnson. “I’m young. I didn’t think anything bad could really happen to me.”
Johnson earns $9 an hour at a part-time job and was ineligible for traditional Medicaid. The hospital told him to apply for coverage through The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act, which he did. But there was one problem: the act doesn’t cover men.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate, so this program shouldn’t discriminate,” Johnson said.
The state of South Carolina agrees with him. Since Johnson applied for coverage, the state Department of Health and Human Services has been talking with federal Medicaid officials about potentially changing the rules.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 2,100 cases of invasive breast cancer in men are expected to be diagnosed in 2011. Though breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than men, the group estimated that about 450 men will die from the disease this year.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and 1st District Congressman Tim Scott say they favor changing Medicaid rules to cover men suffering from breast cancer.
Scott says it’s wrong to deny such coverage just because a patient is a man.