Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides information and answers for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
Our highly trained specialists are available 24/7 via phone and on weekdays can assist through video calls and online chat. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with essential services and resources at every step of their cancer journey. Ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
If your employer offers health coverage, you should check the different options for both you and your family members (dependents). Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's important to remember that employers can refuse or restrict coverage for some reasons. But, employers and health insurers cannot deny or restrict coverage because of a pre-existing health condition, such as cancer. And they cannot limit benefits for a pre-existing condition. Once you are covered by an insurance plan, they cannot refuse to cover treatment for a pre-existing condition.
Employer-based (work-based) health plans are set up for groups of people. Group health plans usually cover employees of the same company, and often their dependents. Some employers pay part of employee health care premiums, which are the monthly payments required to continue coverage. Unions and other organizations can also offer group health insurance to their members.
Usually, you can sign up for a health plan for yourself and your dependents when you first start a new job. Your employer can potentially require an “orientation period” of no more than one month, followed by a waiting period of no more than 90 days before you and your dependents can access your coverage. The 90-day waiting period must start one day after the orientation period ends. After that, it’s usually possible to add yourself, a spouse, or a child to a work health insurance policy. The open enrollment period for all employees usually happens once a year and lasts for a week or two. If you’re not sure when this is, you can find out from your health insurance administrator at work. This person is usually in the human resources or employee benefits department.
You might also be able to sign up for coverage even when it isn’t open enrollment if you or your spouse had a change in situation (see list below) that resulted in you or a family member needing health coverage. Check with your health insurance administrator at work about your situation, and how quickly you must sign up.
Usually you can add yourself or a dependent to a workplace health insurance policy without waiting for the open enrollment period if you need insurance because any of the following occurred:
Read carefully when choosing from health insurance and managed care options. There’s usually a chance to compare different types of coverage during open enrollment periods. You can also ask your health insurance administrator for the Summary of Plan Benefits (SPB) at any time. The SPB is an easy to read comparison of what each plan covers.
It’s important to know ahead of time if the plan you’re considering is one of the grandfathered plans or a self-insured plan in which coverage is limited (with things like annual caps and pre-existing condition exclusions). If either of these apply, there may be important limits on your coverage. Check with your health insurance administrator at work before you sign up. At that time, you can also ask if the health plan you’re considering is self-insured.
Plans that meet the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements don’t allow pre-existing condition exclusions,annual caps on amount they’ll pay, or charging you more because of your health problems.
If you or your dependent have cancer it’s especially important to choose a health insurance plan that best meets your needs, and doesn't have a cap on what will be paid. When comparing plans, consider a number of factors, including:
In general, job-based group insurance is better for most people than individual insurance. But if you learn that coverage at your job will cost you more than 9.12 % of your income, you may find a better deal in your state’s health insurance Marketplace. The percentage of income used to determine insurance affordability is inflation adjusted, so check with healthcare.gov to find the current rate.
Sometimes. If your income is low enough, you can qualify for help with premiums or other costs. If your individual coverage at work costs 9.12% or less of your household income, you can shop on the Marketplace but you won’t get help with premiums.
Yes. Sometimes even when an employee’s individual coverage is affordable (if it meets the 9.12% cutoff noted above), family or dependent coverage is not. In this case, the employee can get their coverage at work, and shop on the Marketplace to try and get lower-cost coverage for the family. Since the employee's individual coverage is affordable, only the family or dependent may be eligible for savings through the Marketplace.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of information and support are listed below.
Federal Register. Ninety-Day Waiting Period Limitation. 2014. Accessed at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/06/25/2014-14795/ninety-day-waiting-period-limitation on April 29, 2022.
US Department of Labor, Employee Benefits, Security Administration (EBSA)
Toll-free number: 1-866-444-3272
Information on employee benefit laws, including COBRA, FMLA, and HIPAA requirements of employer-based health coverage and self-insured health plans. Also has information on recent changes in health care laws. Information for military reservists who must leave their private employers for active duty can be found at: https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/vets/userra/ee_disc.asp
State Health Care Marketplaces – US Department of Health and Human Services
Toll-free number: 1-800-318-2596 (also in Spanish)
Provides information on the new insurance law, takes you through the steps of finding insurance, and much more. If you don’t have Internet access, the phone number will connect you with your state’s marketplace.
US Department of Health & Human Services
For the most up-to-date information on health care and insurance laws and how they affect you
National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Toll-free Number: 1-866-470-6242
Offers contact information for your state insurance commission. You can contact your state insurance commission for insurance information specific to your state, or report problems with your insurance company
Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF)
Toll-free number: 1- 800-532-5274
Works with the patient and insurer, employer and/or creditors to resolve insurance, job retention and/or debt problems related to their diagnosis, with help from case managers, doctors, and attorneys. For cancer patients in treatment or less than 2 years out of treatment
Cancer Legal Resource Center (CLRC)
Toll-free number: 1-866-843-2572 (might need to leave a number for a call back)
Provides free legal information about laws and resources for many cancer-related issues including health insurance issues, denial of benefits, and government benefits
*Inclusion on these lists does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.
Healthcare.gov. Affordable coverage. Accessed at https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/affordable-coverage/ on October 31, 2022.
Healthcare.gov. People with coverage through a job: If you have job-based insurance. Accessed at https://www.healthcare.gov/have-job-based-coverage/options/ on May 24, 2019.
US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). Pre-existing conditions. Accessed at https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-aca/pre-existing-conditions/index.html on May 24, 2019.
Last Revised: October 31, 2022