The Medical Legal Partnership for Health Act

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Medical Legal Partnerships (MLPs) are collaborations between primary care doctors and poverty lawyers that address the social determinants of health.  When poverty lawyers are part of the health care team, a doctor who identifies a problem beyond the reach of medical care that is a barrier to a patient’s health, if it is a problem that is amenable to a legal solution, the doctor can refer the patient to the lawyer.

Nearly 100 MLPs exist across the United States, operating in primary care clinics, nursing clinics, federally qualified health centers, palliative care clinics, and other health care settings.  Legal aid lawyers, paralegals, law students, pro bono attorneys provide legal advocacy on behalf of patients referred to these MLPs.  To learn more about MLPs, visit the website of the National Center for Medical Legal Partnerships.

The MLP model is built on the premise that addressing these problems will improve the health and well-being of patients.  The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association have all endorsed it.  But bringing the model to scale requires resources and the data to justify the resources is not yet there.  Several small evaluations do support the association, but more rigorous evaluation is needed to ensure that best practices are developed and implemented.

That’s why passing The Medical Legal Partnership for Health Act is so important.  It provides funding for a federal MLP demonstration and evaluation program.  Bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate last year, but it was not acted upon before the end of the sessions.   This important piece of legislation has the potential to help save health care dollars while improving patient lives.  Encourage your senators and representatives to sponsor this legislation so that it can be reintroduced, with bipartisan support, and passed.

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2 Responses to “The Medical Legal Partnership for Health Act”

  1. rathiasai Says:

    As a medical student, I am a firm believer that this act should pass and that medical-legal collaboration is crucial for optimal patient care. Countless studies have shown that poverty is a fundamental cause of disease and must be addressed if we seek to improve health care in a comprehensive and sustainable way. On numerous occasions, I have encountered problems that were beyond the scope of what my medical team could handle and it would have been wonderful to have assistance from somebody with a legal background. Additionally, as a free clinic volunteer, I am interested to see if MLPs can help lead to significant contributions for the national homeless population as well.

  2. hfoley518 Says:

    This post reminded me very much of when I worked at the Medical-Legal Advocacy Clinic at the New York University School of Law. Here is the website: http://www.law.nyu.edu/academics/clinics/semester/medical-legal/index.htm

    The Clinic’s fieldwork component for students is done in collaboration with LegalHealth, which is a part of the MLP Network.

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