Cancer patient with a week to live flees Kansas for-profit Medicaid for life-saving surgery in Memphis
Levi Ross (KMBC/screen grab)

A high school senior who was rejected by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) reformed for-profit state Medicaid system said that he was just days away from dying when he fled the state and found treatment at a hospital in Tennessee.

Just last week, 18-year-old Levi Ross told KMBC that it had been a month since doctors discovered that he had a type of spinal cancer called epitheliod sarcoma and already the tumor had doubled in size.

Ross' doctors advised him to get treatment out of state, but after not responding for weeks, his insurance provider rejected the advice.

After taking office, Gov. Brownback reformed the state's Medicaid system by enrolling low-income and disabled patients in a for-profit system called KanCare. Three health insurance companies now coordinate the care for about 400,000 Medicaid patients in Kansas.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokesperson Sara Belfry told KMBC that she wasn't authorized to speak about Ross' case, but she said that getting out-of-state care required a special two-step approval process. In the end, the insurance company might reject the claim if it determined that the patient could receive similar care in state.

"They are ultimately the payer, but they also certainly don't want any bad outcome to come from a patient not receiving the necessary services," Belfry insisted.

But KanCare did reject Ross' claim, and his doctors said that there was little hope of saving his life until St. Jude Children's Hospital offered to perform the surgery in Memphis. By the time Ross finally had surgery, his tumor had tripled in size. His doctors said that he had only one week to live.

"There's no way that by staying in Kansas that I would have stayed alive," Ross explained. "I feel pretty good considering I've had a massive surgery."

"It's really sad," he said of the KanCare experience. "It's very upsetting that we divide ourselves by states."

Ross added that he was thankful to the medical team that saved his life.

"I'm just happy to be alive."

Watch the video below from KMBC.