Triage provides health care insight

By Kevin Beese Staff Writer

A Triage Cancer program attendee is excited to get information from the nonprofit dedicated to providing free education and support to individuals affected by cancer and other health issues. (Photo courtesy of Triage Cancer)

Having to work to ensure that people get the health care coverage they are entitled to is a continual frustration for Joanna Doran.

The CEO of Triage Cancer, a Chicago-based national nonprofit dedicated to providing free education and support to individuals affected by cancer and other health issues, said laws exist to guarantee certain coverages but still health insurance firms reject coverage at times.

“The thing that is most frustrating is where the advocacy community — where groups are working on behalf of patients — work really hard to get a law passed to create a protection but that is often where the advocacy stops,” Doran said. “We can create laws and protections all day long, but if people don’t know that they exist or how to use them, why did we bother working so hard to get that law passed?

“So, for us, what we do is teach people about those laws so that they can use them to tap into that to get what they need.”

The nonprofit has launched Triage Health, a platform designed to ensure that individuals diagnosed with any type of chronic or serious medical condition have a place to turn for help.

Triage Cancer COO Monica Bryant (left) and Triage CEO Joanna Doran make a presentation in a Chicago hotel ballroom. (Photo courtesy of Triage Cancer)

Doran said that too often people think that if they have a condition other than cancer that information on the Triage Cancer site doesn’t pertain to them.

“A lot of what we teach people about is just things that we all should have been taught in high school, but no one ever taught us about — things like how to pick a health insurance plan or understanding employment rights or that we should all have estate planning documents in place the second we turn 18 because you never know what might happen.

“You might be in a car accident and be in a coma and your child needs to be picked up from school, your pet needs to get fed and your rent is due that day. So, it is a lot of practical navigation of these issues that we want everybody to know more about so that if they are in a crisis situation or they are diagnosed with a serious medical condition like cancer, they are better situated. It is so a lot of these things don’t become crises, and you are not having to make decisions or figure out this information when you’re also trying to deal with the health crisis.”

Triage Health is an effort to make information more widely available, Doran said.

Estate planning, medical bills and other issues affect everyone, not just cancer patients.

“A lot of people think ‘Oh, if it says (Triage) Cancer, it doesn’t apply to me,’” Doran said. “So, for us, rolling out Triage Health and creating a website of and making that information available without it saying ‘cancer’ is one way for us to help people try to access the information and not feel it doesn’t apply to them.”

The Triage CEO said the nonprofit is funded through grants, program sponsorships, and individual donations.

“We don’t want finances to be a barrier to education,” Doran said. “We want everyone to be able to access this information for free and so we are able to fundraise to help provide our programs.”

She said the agency works to inform patients of their rights but stops short of advocating on their behalf.

“We want people to understand what their rights are so that they can get access to what they need and not have to sue anyone,” Doran said.