JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 9/11 first responder battling stage four cancer said he can’t afford medical treatments after losing benefits from the World Trade Center Health Program.
The program covers eligible first responders and survivors of the September 11th terror attacks at no cost.
Jeffrey Brown helped recover and remove bodies at the Pentagon. He said the WTC program paid for his cancer treatments up until last week. It’s a problem he claims is also happening to other first responders.
“I feel that everybody says never forget but I think it was forgotten quick,” Brown said.
While at the Pentagon recovering bodies — Brown was exposed to toxic debris. Last year he was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer, which the World Trade Center Health program verified as a direct result of his recovery efforts at ground zero.
Up until last Tuesday, he said WTC covered all of his treatments at the Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, but stopped after the program was taken over by a new health care provider.
“MD Anderson told me because they can’t take this insurance or my private insurance, I would be responsible for the $17,500 for that one treatment, and in addition, I have to take medicine every month that’s another 3,000 dollars,” Brown said.
WTC lists its new in-network providers online. Brown said he called but still couldn’t find a place that took the new insurance.
“When I reached out to the program, they said that they’re sorry they’re going through this and that they’re working on it and I still haven’t heard back from them even now,” Brown said.
Desperate to get treatment, he hired attorney Woody Igou to help get answers. Igou sent a letter to the program’s administrators and a case worker a few days ago. The letter is pleading for something to be done and stresses the fact that this could shorten Brown’s life.
“They didn’t do their due diligence and do their jobs regarding the transfer and now people with stage four cancer like Jeff and he’s not the only person are all at least going to be a week late on their active cancer chemotherapy radiation,” Igou said.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), the organization in charge of the World Trade Center’s health program, reached out to Brown on Wednesday and has set up an appointment for an infusion next week.
He said there was no mention of his medicine or future infusions.
News4JAX reached out to NIOSH for comment — Here’s the response we received on Wednesday: