What’s Legal About Cancer: An Introduction to Triage Cancer

Recently, Patients Rising and Triage Cancer entered into partnership. Together, the Patients Rising Concierge service and Triage Cancer’s Legal and Financial Navigation Program are providing roadmaps to the complexities of healthcare and beyond. Here, Monica Fawzy Bryant, chief operations office of Triage Cancer talks about why cancer patients (or any disabled person) could benefit from help with the legalities of cancer. Here’s Monica….


“You’re a what-rights attorney??”

A cancer-rights attorney. It’s a conversation I have had at professional networking events, in taxi cabs while traveling for work, even at baseball games, and in bars.

People have no idea what a cancer-rights attorney is, and so often follow up with, “oh, do you sue doctors?”

It’s comical to me because the last time I saw the inside of a courtroom was two decades ago — I was there for a speeding ticket.

“No,” I say. “I help people who are coping with cancer, and their caregivers, understand what their rights are.”

“But what is legal about cancer?”

“Almost everything.”

The conversation almost always goes this way. Sure there are some variations on a theme, but most people just don’t think there is anything legal about cancer. The reality is that when trying to navigate any serious medical diagnosis, treatment decisions, and how to maintain financial health, having an understanding of the law is vital.

LAWS ARE COMPLICATED

Most laws are convoluted and challenging to decipher. Most bills introduced in legislatures are written by referencing other laws. For example, this is the language included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA):

“Prohibition on rescissions – (1) A group health plan, or a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage, must not rescind coverage under the plan, or under the policy, certificate, or contract of insurance, with respect to an individual (including a group to which the individual belongs or family coverage in which the individual is included) once the individual is covered under the plan or coverage, unless the individual (or a person seeking coverage on behalf of the individual) performs an act, practice, or omission that constitutes fraud, or makes an intentional misrepresentation of material fact, as prohibited by the terms of the plan or coverage.”

Code of Federal Regulations 147.128

Translation: Certain health insurance companies can’t cancel your policy when you try and use it, unless you lied about something really important on the application. It took me 75% fewer words to explain.

It shouldn’t take a law degree to understand your health insurance options. Unfortunately, especially in the midst of a dealing with a serious medical diagnosis, it can feel like an impossible task.

WHAT WE DO AT TRIAGE CANCER

We don’t just explain what the law says, but illustrate how the law can be used as a tool. Here’s an example:

Here’s just one passage from The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) : eligible individuals are eligible for “any changes in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done….” Even as I write that I can’t help but think, “what a mouthful!” You may understand the words, or even the gist of what it means, but how does that actually help someone?

That definition is actually describing what a “reasonable accommodation” is. Reasonable accommodations are one of the most valuable tools for someone who is working through treatment, trying to take time off, or return to work after active treatment? The value lies in being able to decipher, understand, translate and contextualize the law so that someone can make decisions armed with an understanding of the benefits the law provides.

SIMPLIFYING THE LANGUAGE

President Biden is credited with trying to get his aides to stop using complex and elitist language, saying “Pick up your phone, call your mother, read her what you just told me…If she understands, we can keep talking.” We couldn’t agree more. The law doesn’t need to be complicated, and it just takes some guidance and practice to be able to translate it. The issue is that at a point in one’s life when time feels finite, and there is already so much to wade through, that may not be possible.

FREE EDUCATION FOR ANYONE WHO NEEDS IT

At Triage Cancer we are dedicated to providing free education on an array of legal and practical issues in a variety of formats. Sometimes people tell us they are overwhelmed by all of the information at TriageCancer.org. We appreciate that it is a lot. However, many of the Quick Guides we create have been requested by health care professionals so that they can help their patients. Many people are unaware of their rights and the resources available to assist them through the vast maze of legal, employment, and insurance systems, and the financial impact that a serious medical diagnosis may have on their lives. We want to provide them a path forward, beyond diagnosis.

Need to understand what your health insurance options are? We have a Quick Guide and recorded webinar, we also have an animated video on health insurance basics and how to pick a plan.

Or maybe you are trying to decipher the alphabet soup that is STD, LTD, SDI, SSDI, and SSA. Our solution: a Quick Guide on Disability Insurance Basics as foundation, coupled with additional quick guides on important details, animated videos, and an entire module on CancerFinances.org when you’re ready to do a deeper dive.

PARTNERSHIP WITH PATIENTS RISING CONCIERGE

While some of our materials are created with patients facing cancer diagnoses in mind, most of our resources can benefit anyone coping with a serious medical diagnosis. Through our partnership with Patients Rising Concierge, and our Legal and Financial Navigation Program, we provide patients, caregivers, and health care professionals with free one-on-one help in the areas of health insurance, disability insurance, employment, finances, medical decision-making, estate planning, and more.

Each year, more than 500,000 people are reached through our educational materials, TriageCancer.org, CancerFinances.org, our educational blog, and monthly e-newsletters. Additionally, from 2012-2020, we provided more than 283,000 people with practical and legal knowledge through more than 890 online and in-person educational events held in all 50 states, DC, and Guam. Additionally, In the age of COVID-19, Triage Cancer exists to provide information on rapidly shifting policies, restrictions, and health insurance coverage understandable to anyone.


Monica Fawzy Bryant Esq. is a cancer rights attorney, speaker, and author, dedicated to improving access to, and availability of, quality information on healthcare-related issues. She is the Chief Operating Officer for Triage Cancer, a national, non-profit organization that provides education and resources on cancer survivorship issues.

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