Medicaid denies Lowcountry man's cancer treatment...because he's not a woman

Raymond Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month ago. / Dave MacQueen/WCIV

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- He's just 26 and already he's done what most men will never do. He's had a breast exam.

Raymond Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month ago. He found a lump, but thought it was a cyst. He didn't think anything of it until a pain in his chest sent him scrambling to the emergency room.

"To be 26 and have breast cancer is really a surprise," Johnson said.

His mother Betty Button was more than surprised, she was heart broken.

"It was cancer and all I could do was cry cause I'm thinking I only have two children and one of them has breast cancer," she said.

To make matters worse, Raymond doesn't have insurance. He works laying tile and says he just doesn't make enough money. So a patient advocate from the Charleston Cancer Center tried to help. She found a state program that provides medicaid for breast cancer patients and applied. But Raymond was denied.

Why? Because he's a man.

The Department of Health and Human Services says it realizes there's a problem, and says it has asked the federal government for help. But help can't come soon enough.

"Each treatment is probably roughly around 10 grand," said Susan Appelbaum, the patient advocate for Raymond Johnson. She says, Raymond still needs several more chemotherapy treatments.

"Right now I'm stuck with these bills and I'm trying to find a way," said Raymond, who just underwent his second round of chemotherapy at Roper Saint Francis Hospital.

Breast cancer in men may be rare, but it does happen. Federal statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that roughly 1 percent of cases occur in men.

Susan Appelbaum hasn't given up.

"He's young. He's working and he's worried this could be financially devastating to him."

She is now contacting lawmakers, trying to get the medicaid program changed. Raymond Johnson calls her his new best friend.

"I don't know where I'd be without her," he said.

Do you think it's fair that Medicaid has denied coverage for a man with breast cancer just because he is not a woman? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

(This report courtesy WCIV.)