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Breast cancer patient denied Medicaid coverage: Is he victim of sexism?

Raymond Johnson
Raymond Johnson, 26, found out he had breast cancer after seeking treatment for throbbing pain in his chest. WCIV-TV

(CBS) Medicaid recently declined to cover the cost of treatment for breast cancer because the patient met all the eligibility requirements but one.

The one that says the patient has to be a woman.

Raymond Johnson, of Cross, S.C., got the shocking news that he had a breast malignancy last month after heading to the emergency room to find out what was causing his chest pain. He got another shock a few days later when his application to a Medicaid program that covers breast cancer treatment was rejected, the Charleston Post and Courier reported.

He was angry. "Cancer doesn't discriminate, so this program shouldn't discriminate," Johnson told the paper.

The director of the state's Department of Health and Human Services agreed.

"We believe that the federal position on this issue is discriminatory, and we are again urging federal Medicaid officials to reconsider," Tony Keck said in a written statement obtained by CBS News. "This is a very clear example of how overly rigid federal regulations don't serve the interests of the people we're supposed to be helping."

The eligibility requirements say that in order to get coverage for breast cancer treatment, patients new to Medicaid must have been diagnosed through "early detection" programs funded by the CDC. But a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services - which administers the Medicaid program - told CBS News that an unintended "glitch" in the law that governs the CDC programs had left men without coverage for breast cancer.

Can the glitch be fixed?

"We are working with the CDC and South Carolina to see what options may exist to address this situation," CMS spokesman Brian T. Cook, told CBS News in an email. "We are committed to ensuring that all individuals who should be eligible for this program have coverage."

Johnson, who the paper says is now getting treatment, is one of about 2,000 American men to be diagnosed each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. In 2009, an estimated 192,370 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society has more on breast cancer in men.

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