Federal Laws that Cancer Patients May Want to Know About
While treatment and recovery concerns are likely to be at the top of the priority list when you learn you have breast cancer, you might want to be familiar with other laws that protect your rights.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
The federal government passed this Act in 1996 to help improve health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions who change jobs or lose health insurance coverage. Before HIPAA was passed, many people were excluded from health insurance coverage because of previous health problems, even if the problems occurred many years earlier.
HIPAA ensures that people seeking group health insurance will have full coverage within a relatively short period of time. If you have had breast cancer or another serious medical condition, it is important to avoid a break in coverage of 63 days or more. You can apply for COBRA continuation coverage to bridge the gap between jobs. If a break in coverage occurs, you might have to wait six months or more before your insurance will cover you. See Insurance Issues section for more information.
A second part of the HIPAA bill deals with the protection of privacy of medical information. Some of the recent paperwork changes you may have noticed in hospitals or doctor’s offices (more forms to sign before receiving care) relate to this part of HIPAA. The new laws guarantee the right of patients to see and obtain copies of their medical records and request corrections if they see mistakes. They also regulate and protect access to medical information (particularly computer information) by outsiders.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This federal law states that an employer cannot refuse to hire or refuse to continue to employ a person with a disability (including cancer), as long as that person is able and qualified to do the job. The law applies to any private employer, including state and local governments, with 15 or more employees. The ADA requires employers to treat all employees the same. The law applies to all aspects of the employment process: the job application procedure, hiring, promotion, discharge, employee compensation, job training, leaves of absence, sick leave, other leave and fringe benefits.
The Federal Rehabilitation Act (fRA)
The FRA applies the standards set by the ADA to employees of the federal government.
Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)
This federal law was passed to make sure people have time off from work to take care of themselves or a family member in need. The law requires some employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for certain family and medical reasons.
FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees.
For more information about the above laws, see the Resources.