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U.S. Laws Affecting People with Health Problems

It may be helpful to learn about certain U.S. insurance and employment laws as you and your family cope with a serious illness. If you are in or from another country, these U.S. laws may not apply.

You may want to meet with a social worker, lawyer, or other trusted advisor to discuss how the laws might affect you. These laws are complex. This summary is not legal advice. Talk with a legal expert if you have questions.

U.S. Laws that relate to patients and their families

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off work each year. They take this time off without pay. But they do not lose their jobs. In many cases, they can take time off for the following family health issues:

  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • Care of a family member with a serious health problem
  • Recovery from the employee’s own serious health problems

Learn more about FMLA.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) created new rules to protect people from harmful health insurance practices. The law made it harder for insurance carriers to refuse or cancel health coverage in some situations. The Health Insurance Marketplace can help if you do not already have health coverage.

Learn more about the ACA and the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows people who lose health insurance coverage to continue that coverage. They continue coverage at their own expense but only for a certain number of months.

Learn more about health insurance and COBRA.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prevents some health insurance companies and employers from discriminating against employees based on genetic information.

Learn more about genetic discrimination and GINA.

What these laws mean for you

If you have questions or concerns about these laws or how they apply to you, use these hospital and community resources:

  • Social workers
  • The insurance commissioner for your state
  • Consumer advocacy groups
  • Your lawyer or other trusted advisor

You can find a listing of insurance commissioners by state at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website:

The social work staff at your hospital may help you find disease-specific support groups. If you need to discuss legal and support resources, ask your care team to connect you with a social worker.

Reviewed: September 2022