Initially reported as a local news story, a twenty-six year old male from Charleston, South Carolina has been denied government medical insurance simply because he is not a women. Raymond Johnson first noticed a lump in his breast this year and went to a Charleston emergency room. There, doctors initially thought his pain was related to his heart. However, when they felt a lump on his chest, they sent him for biopsy; the results came back positive for breast cancer. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I was shocked when I began reading this story. But it turns out the mistake lies with the United States Congress who drafted the statute.
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevent and Treatment Act of 2002, Public Law 106-354, was signed into law on October 24, 2000. The Act gives states the option to provide medical assistance through Medicaid to "eligible women" who have been screened (through a CDC program) and diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. For Mr. Johnson, he meets all the requirements of the Act except one: he is a man, not a women. The medical bills for Mr. Johnson would run at least several hundred thousand. As a result, Mr. Johnson, who ears $9 an hour, cannot afford the medical bills needed to treat his breast cancer.
Although relatively rare, men can develop breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1,970 new cases of male breast cancer were diagnosed and, of these cases, about 370 will lead to death. As with breast cancer for women, male breast cancer is characterized as uncontrollable growth of abnormal breast tissue. Although more common in older men, male breast cancer can strike at any age. Mr. Johnson was diagnosed under thirty.
With male breast cancer being a well-known and potentially deadly medical condition for over a decade, why did Congress draft this Act to apply only to women? That is difficult to say. As with many things Congress does, perhaps they just weren't thinking. In either event, Congress can fix the mistake by amending the Act to apply to both sexes. Hopefully, with enough media attention, Congress might find the time to fix this terrible injustice.
Medical News Today Website, Man With Breast Cancer Denied Government Medical Insurance Website, August 9, 2011.
Mayo Clinic Website, Male Breast Cancer, August 9, 2011.
Medicinenet Website, Male Breast Cancer, August 9, 2011.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Website, August 9, 2011.