27-year-old Dies After Not Being Able To Afford Specialized Treatment

By Mark Carlson, Reporter

CORALVILLE, Iowa - A Cedar Rapids man died in April after a two year battle with cancer, which included a failed attempt to seek specialized treatment.

Justin Baker, 27, was covered under Iowa Medicaid but the coverage did not allow him to receive specialized treatment at a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, his family said.

Now, a Coralville man is speaking out against what he sees as a problem with the publicly funded health care system.

"It would have given him a better chance," said Greg Cantwell, who is a brain cancer survivor previously treated in Minneapolis. "That's what I'm all about, giving people a better chance at long term survival."

Baker was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer, at the age of 25. After connecting with Cantwell, the two decided his best chance at survival was to seek specialized treatment in Minnesota, since the specific type of treatment isn't currently offered in Iowa, according to Cantwell.

"It's a very aggressive treatment," Cantwell said. "Justin could have benefited from it, but our hands were tied."

"Iowa Medicaid pays claims only from providers who are enrolled in Iowa Medicaid," Roger Munns, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services said in an email Thursday. Munns said out-of-state providers can enroll in Iowa Medicaid but wasn't sure how many are enrolled.

Baker traveled with his aunt to Minneapolis in June 2012 to meet with doctors. At the time they were under the impression his coverage would pay for the treatment, but he later learned it would not, his family claimed.

"He wanted to extend his life as much as possible," Bobby Udell, Baker's best friend, said. "When he found out he couldn't do that he was pretty disappointed."

Cantwell said the Medicaid program needs to be more transparent between states.

"For them to just take a life and disregard it, we're not going to pay for it as a monetary thing, that's unacceptable," Cantwell said.

Cantwell plans to travel to Washington D.C. to discuss funding for brain cancer research this weekend. He has spent the last several weeks getting local restaurants to sign-on to an agreement to donate a percentage of nightly sales to help the cause. More information can be found by visiting his website, www.gregsmission.org.
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