Monday, August 8, 2011

Man denied breast cancer treatment ... because he's a man. Really?

Check out the link here about a man who was denied Medicaid coverage for his breast cancer treatment because he is not a female.

Interestingly, the article points out that the man applied for aid through a breast cancer and cervical screening program that only serves women; that is, the defined mission of the organization is to assist WOMEN with these problems, not men. I find it difficult to swallow that this organization is to blame for his lack of coverage. This is also mentioned in the Jezebel article, so kudos to them.

For example, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation primarily deals with Type 1, or early onset, diabetes in child populations. Suppose the JDRF provided charitable support for individuals with this condition. Now, imagine that someone with Type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes, applies for financial assistance from JDRF. The organization is dedicated to a different population, however, and so denies the request. There's really no difference between that and the breast cancer situation described above.

Organizations exist to serve specific populations, and that's OK. The flaw isn't with the breast and cervical cancer screening programs, as the Jezebel article points out. Rather, our system is failing because of its inability to provide comprehensive care to everyone. If the American healthcare system was fortified with more safety nets for populations with health disparities, impoverished men with breast cancer would be less likely to fall through the cracks.

We need to allow organizations to focus on their self-defined mission rather than attempting to dictate morality to them; a women's group doesn't have to provide healthcare to men (just like a fathers' support group doesn't have to allow mothers to join). I'm glad that the editorial attacks the general healthcare structure instead of vilifying the women's health organization.

If those groups weren't allowed to set boundaries, I think it would be a slippery slope into chaotic public health practice. I can see the nature of these conversations:
"You have an AIDS foundation? Give us money to help cancer patients!"
"Um ... no?"

It's not that we shouldn't care about groups with different health problems. Rather, we need to acknowledge and realistically assess the independent ability of non-profit groups to support specific populations, strengthening our overall infrastructure to support these efforts.

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