Doing the Cancer Juggle Gig: holding onto the job and insurance while reclaiming your health
I hear it too often in my Facebook survivor groups and other online support communities: someone gets cancer, tells their boss, and is fired the next day. Or when they need insurance most, their claim is denied. If one of these scenarios has happened to you, you don’t have to take it sitting down. And there are people out there to walk you through finding resolution.
The Cancer Legal Resource Center (CLRC) has a national phone assistance line; the person on the other end will explain the laws related to your personal situation, and spell out how you go about getting your rights back. If your situation isn’t that simple, they will hook you up with one of the Center’s volunteer attorneys, accountants, or whichever team member is the best person to take you to the next step. The consult is free, and in some circumstances litigation is at no cost. Or attorneys may at least be able to write a letter to your insurance company or employer reminding them of their obligations. They grease the wheel for you.
“Most of the people who come to us need assistance in one of three categories: health insurance, employment issues, or income-related situations,” says Joanna Morales, director of the Cancer Legal Resource Center and professor at Loyola Law School.
“If the caller’s situation is job related, we explain laws like the Americans With Disabilities Act. And we walk them through accessing their rights through this law, which protects them from discrimination in employment and entitles them to reasonable accommodations. Like a readjusted work schedule or telecommuting,” says Morales.
For survivors who can’t work at all, CLRC helps them get leverage from federal or state disability options. Since people who find themselves suddenly unemployed may also find themselves suddenly uninsured, they learn about COBRA, insurance through HIPAA, or a high-risk plan through their states—now a federally mandated option for people with pre-existing conditions.
If none of these insurance options are within callers’ budgets they are led to financial assistance possibilities.
In the case of a conflict, resolution can come in many ways.
“There is an emotional and practical side to what cancer survivors go through and in taking action to ensure fair treatment. These emotional and practical factors impact their decisions on what action they will take. It may be a lawsuit if they have a strong case. It may be filing a complaint with an employer or the state—so their experience goes on the record.”
“At least people understand their options and can decide what options if any they want to access. In the case of workplace discrimination, their employers get educated too. We prefer these scenarios to lawsuits to avoid more stress, and to teach others. So hopefully no one else has the same experience,” says Morales.
Besides the telephone line and professional volunteers offering further counsel, CLRC facilitates seminars nationwide. They also conduct free Cancer Rights conferences. These resources are open to survivors, care givers, and health professionals.
“For us it’s about putting people in a position of knowledge so they can advocate for themselves, make educated decisions, and avoid potential issues down the road,” says Morales.
For more information:
Cancer Legal Resource Center Assistance Line: 866-THE-CLRC