By Victoria Hansen
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Between the hugs and phone calls, it's easy to forget Raymond Johnson is battling breast cancer.
But he is -- only now he knows the bills will get paid.
The 26 year old got a call from the State Department of Health and Human Services early Thursday morning. He nearly dropped the phone.
The Cross man was told he would be granted federally funded medicaid coverage for breast cancer patients. He had already been turned down twice. Why? Because he's a man.
"I'm just happy and blessed with joy right now," said Raymond, as he got a shot to boost his immune system following chemotherapy.
"This is a really good day I mean I wish I could hug everybody I see right now."
But the fight for funding for male breast cancer patients like Raymond hasn't been easy, and most likely isn't over.
It involves the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act, a federal law enacted in 2000. The law uses Medicaid funds to cover treatment for breast and cervical patients who otherwise would not qualify.
The problem? It excludes men.
The State Department of Health and Human Services has called it discriminatory, and tried to fight it two years ago when another man with breast cancer came forward.
Thursday the Department took a stand and issued a statement that could set a precedent for all men with breast cancer in our state.
"After speaking with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we believe it is in the best interest of Mr. Johnson to deem him eligible for the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. The department will submit claims to the federal government for reimbursement of his treatment, as we do with other eligible beneficiaries. If federal lawyers choose to deny those claims based on a discriminatory policy, that is their choice and our Department will appeal the decision. We will continue to work with our federal counterparts on this issue, but will not deny coverage to Mr. Johnson or any other South Carolinian in this particular situation."
We contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Thursday, but did not hear back.
Raymond Johnson made national news after ABC News 4 first aired his story 2 weeks ago. He has received support from people all across the country, including several lawmakers.
Congressman Tim Scott's office told us he has made congressional inquiries about Raymond's case.
Jim Clyburn's office says they too have been in contact with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For now, Raymond Johnson celebrates. His baseball size tumor has shrunk tremendously. He no longer has to worry about the mounting bills. And he embraces the breast cancer community, as he thanks them for their support.
He laughs as he says, " I'm gonna wear pink."