March 10, 2017

Navigating the Maze of Cancer Survivorship

By Joanna L. Morales, Esq., CEO, Triage Cancer

When people hear the words, “you have cancer,” the last thing they think about are the legal issues they may face because of their diagnosis.

Many people are unaware of their rights and the resources available to guide them through the maze of legal, employment and insurance systems, or help them deal with the financial impact that cancer has on their lives.

A 2005 Institute of Medicine report, “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition,” recognized that employment, insurance and financial issues should be addressed to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors.

For example, Paul is 43 and has been working at ABC Company for 10 years. He was married three years ago, had his first child two years ago, and bought his first home last year. Paul just learned that he has colon cancer, which drops him into a maze of cancer-related legal issues.

He knows that if he takes a wrong turn, he may lose his job, his insurance, or even his home. With decisions and deadlines looming, Paul has to decide:

  • Can he work through his treatment, or will he need to take time off work?
  • Can he get a reasonable accommodation to help him continue working through his treatment?
  • Does he have to disclose his diagnosis to his employer?
  • Will his job be protected if he takes time off?
  • Will he be paid while he’s on leave?
  • If he does take time off or loses his job, can he keep his health or life insurance coverage?
  • If so, will he qualify for state or federal disability insurance benefits?
  • How will he pay his bills and take care of his family?
  • What he will do if he becomes unable to make healthcare or financial decisions for himself?

At each turn in the maze, there are more questions and Paul isn’t sure where to turn for help. His healthcare team? His supervisor or human resources department at work? Fortunately for Paul, and millions of other cancer survivors, there are resources, other than his health insurance, to help him find his way through the maze.

For example, Triage Cancer is a nonprofit organization that provides practical information on cancer survivorship. It offers:

Cancer can be a life-altering experience. But arming oneself with information about legal rights and options can help slay dragons in the maze of cancer-related legal issues.

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