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Spencer Students Rally Behind Teacher In Middle Of Health Insurance Fight

SPENCER (CBS) - John Waage knows he's in fight of his life. The 37-year-old music and band teacher at David Prouty High School in Spencer is battling stage three colon cancer.

"I'm an optimistic person but this has been really deflating," Waage said.

His students say he comes to work every day with a smile on his face. "His face lights up when you come into the room, he's excited," student Erin Shey says.

Waage has undergone three surgeries, and several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. Now doctors say he needs a life-saving procedure called Cytoreductive Surgery with Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal chemotherapy.

"We know that this surgery is the only option for them to achieve long term survival from their cancer," Dr. Laura Lambert of UMass Memorial Medical Center said.

Waage received horrible news when he was denied coverage by his insurance provider, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

They call his surgery experimental, saying,"medical necessity has not been established. Your plan only provides coverage for services deemed by us to be medically necessary."

After Waage's appeal was denied three times, friends and family urged him to try a different tune and start a petition to get the insurance company to reverse the decision so he could have the surgery.

The petition has taken off and he's already received more than 15,000 supporters, from students, family, friends and strangers.

"I don't understand how an insurance company can decide who lives or dies because he needs this surgery," student Emily Wright said.

Waage thanks his wife and all the people supporting him in his fight for this surgery.

"I like to think Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey won't ignore 15,000 people," Waage said.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey released this statement to WBZ-TV Tuesday:

"Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey understands John Waage's situation and we are mindful and sympathetic to him, his family, and friends during this difficult time.

Horizon BCBSNJ continues to provide coverage for Mr. Waage at the best facilities for those treatments that meet the standard of care for his particular condition.

Mr. Waage has requested coverage for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). The National Comprehensive Cancer Network "currently considers the treatment of disseminated carcinomatosis with cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC to be investigational and does not endorse this therapy outside of a clinical trial."

Horizon BCBSNJ stands ready to assist Mr. Waage in finding a clinical trial for which he may be eligible to ensure the most appropriate care given his particular case. We wish Mr. Waage the very best and we are continuing to work with him on his treatment."

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