Skip to content

Harkin, Leahy, Inouye Introduce Medical-Legal Partnerships for Health Act

WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the Medical-Legal Partnerships for Health Act, which would help connect legal aid attorneys with patients at hospitals and health clinics. For many American families struggling to make ends meet, maintaining a healthy living environment is a challenge that leads to myriad, preventable health problems, and resolving problems like domestic violence, lack of heat in the winter, or pest infestation at home may require legal assistance. Medical-legal partnerships (MLP) help to alleviate these problems by making legal resources more accessible to those who need them, but may not otherwise access them. Harkin, a former legal aid attorney, was joined by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) as original cosponsors of the bill.

“Assistance in navigating our legal system is sometimes all it takes to prevent individuals and their families from making repeated trips to the doctor or hospital. A safe and healthy living environment is critically important, but many families living in unsafe or substandard conditions believe they have no recourse to fix these problems. Coordinating preventive health care with preventive law will help ensure that families receive the care and benefits they need and live in conditions that promote their well-being,” Harkin said.

MLPs have received support, endorsement, or awards from the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association and the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education, among other organizations.

The Medical-Legal Partnerships for Health Act would:

  • Saves Health Care Costs:Addressing the root cause of health problems, medical-legal partnerships reduce emergency room overcrowding and decrease health care expenditures on preventable health conditions.  One study found a 50 percent reduction in emergency room visits following the intervention of medical-legal partnerships. Another study showed that MLPs reduced the cost per pediatric asthma patient from $735 to $181 through fewer emergency room visits, while also resulting in decreased frequency and duration of asthma attacks following an intervention.
  • Support Hospitals and Attorneys Partnering to Solve Local Problems:Provides federal support to hospitals and attorneys to establish MLPs, and it encourages community buy-in by requiring each MLP to match grant funds by at least 10 percent.
  • Takes controversial issues off the table:  Prohibits federal funds from being used to serve undocumented immigrants, participate in class action lawsuits or engage in medical malpractice and abortion litigation.