Changes to the law cancer patients and survivors need now
An estimated 276,770 Minnesotans are living with cancer. The following measures are needed to protect their lives and finances in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancer Legal Care has contacted elected officials from Minnesota and will continue to advocate for these and other changes to protect the lives and finances of those we serve.
1. Eliminate the waiting periods for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits and Medicare coverage.
The promise of monthly cash benefits and Medicare coverage are often lifelines in name only. The mandatory five-month wait for cash benefits and the 29-month wait for Medicare coverage after a finding of total disability are huge gaps for many to hurdle at an incredibly vulnerable time. In 2017, 10,000 Americans died while waiting for SSDI benefits to begin. Those who survive this five-month wait are then forced to wait two full years before their Medicare benefits will begin. The Stop the Wait Act, S. 2496, H.R. 4386, 116th Cong. (2019-2020) will get families the critical income they need right away and make Medicare immediately available to ensure their cancer care continues.
2. Require 100% transferability for deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses already paid this policy year when cancer patients are forced to get a new policy mid-year.
COBRA benefits cease to exist when businesses fail or stop offering health insurance to their current employees. Cancer patients and survivors often meet their deductible and out-of-pocket limits in the first few weeks or months of the year. To lose their current policy and have to start over with a new one during the same calendar/policy year will financially devastate millions of people, all whose very lives are dependent on timely access to health care.
3. Extend FMLA job protections for immunocompromised cancer patients in active treatment who can’t safely return to work but have exhausted their 12 week FMLA leave.
People in active cancer treatment (including immuno, chemo, and radiation therapies) are severely immunocompromised and especially vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. The pandemic is forcing them to make an impossible choice: one’s job or one’s health. Providing for additional, unpaid job-protected leave under the FMLA or as an additional protection under the FFCRA during the COVID-19 pandemic will save them from having to.
These actions will provide critical help to millions of people in the cancer community who, even before the COVID-10 crisis, were dealing not only with the health challenges of cancer but also with its financial toxicity. The pandemic has only increased the threats to their health, livelihood, access to care, and financial well-being.