Law as Healer: How Paying for Medical-Legal Partnerships Saves Lives and Money

By: Dayna Bowen Matthew. Published by: The Brookings Institution. Published on: January 30, 2017

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The medical-legal partnership (MLP)approach poses an innovative, collaborative solution to bolster health outcomes and reduce medical expenses. A plethora of research is reviewed to convey the greater health risks experienced by low-income populations and other vulnerable groups due to unresolved legal issues related to income, housing, education, employment, legal status, and personal safety. Through the use of civil legal aid strategies, attorneys can play a major role in the resolution of these problems while contributing to an efficient health care system based on preventive action. The paper concludes with a case for the social and economic benefits of the model, citing studies that illustrate the substantial returns on investment (ROI) for MLP programs. Seven proposals for policies that can sustain MLP funding are also discussed.

Highlights include:

  • MLP modifies health care delivery systems to screen for legal issues that can adversely impact health; early identification helps prevent persistent problems and reduce medical expenses
  • A variety of collateral consequences accompany low-income lifestyles; access to work, public benefits, balanced nutrition, and adequate shelter all have the potential to influence health outcome
  • Some MLPs serve specific populations such as immigrants, domestic abuse victims, and transgender individuals
  • MLP systems tend to reduce medical care costs by contributing to fewer visits, allowing patients to allocate income to other necessary resources


Categories: Delivery systems (e.g., MLPs), Health, Health, Legal Aid Practitioners, Medical-Legal Partnerships, National, Policymakers and Funders, Researchers and Academics

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