Former 9/11 fireman Ralph Geidel has spent close to $100,000 on his medical treatment since 2003, when the first responder was first diagnosed with tongue and neck cancer.
"We've already used up all of our savings," said his wife, Barbara. "We're now living from paycheck to paycheck."
The Geidels were hoping to finally get some health insurance help with their mounting medical bills, when President Obama earlier this year signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
The Zadroga Act, also known as the First Responders Bill, sets aside $1.5 billion in federal and New York City funds to cover all costs for treating certain 9/11-related illnesses, and $2.7 billion in compensation for victims who suffered economic hardship as a result of the attacks.
But the law hasn't done a thing for the Geidels when it comes to filling the health insurance gap, because cancer is not one of the medical conditions currently approved to be covered by the fund.
Illnesses that are eligible for full coverage include asthma, lung disease, chronic cough syndrome, laryngitis, sleep apnea, sinusitis, digestive disorders, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, which is administering the fund, there isn't enough scientific evidence linking cancer in first responders to their exposure to toxic substances from the 9/11 attacks.
The fund took effect on July 1, and since then it has received 86 applications, enrolled 25 people and paid out just over $1 million dollars in claims.
"This bill was rushed. It should have included coverage for cancer," said Barbara Geidel, expressing a view widely held by cancer stricken first responders and their families.
A new study released Thursday by The Lancet medical journal examines the link between the incidence of cancer and exposure to 9/11 related substances, and seems to support her point.
It tracked 9,853 firefighters and found that those who were exposed to substances at Ground Zero are 19 per cent more likely to develop cancer than firefighters who were not exposed.