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Maffei, Chris Murphy Introduce Medical-Legal Partnerships Bill

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Today Congressmen Dan Maffei (NY-25) and Chris Murphy (CT-05) introduced legislation aimed at improving public health and lowering health care costs through medical-legal partnerships.

The medical issues for which people seek a doctor's care often relate to underlying issues that may need the attention of legal counsel. For example , an asthmatic will never breathe symptom free , no matter how much medication is administered , if he or she returns to mold-infested housing. Medical-legal partnerships combine physicians , health care providers , social workers and lawyers into an interdisciplinary team that can proactively help families navigate the complexities of government and community systems that can affect their healing.

Rep. Maffei said: "Medical-Legal Partnerships have been helping families across the country identify and address the underlying factors that affect their health. Working together , doctors and lawyers can help patients find solutions. This is a model that has been shown to save money , and it should be expanded."

Rep. Murphy said: "When faced with a health crisis , people need to be able to turn to experts. Establishing these partnerships will help patients save money , and alleviate some of the stress of the unknown as they focus on what matters most -- their health. I'm thrilled to be working with Dan on this issue -- in his short time in Congress , Dan has found innovative ways to make a real difference in the lives of the people he represents."

While physicians are ideally placed to observe the health effects of socio-economic factors or detect when such factors compromise their patients' care , it is the lawyer who can offer the perspective and resources needed to understand patients' medical-legal problems, their rights and options, and where they can find help. These legal professionals provide advice and representation to patients identified by clinicians as having unmet legal needs that are adversely affecting their health.

Carolyn B. Lamm , President of the American Bar Association said , "Medical-legal partnerships enable doctors , lawyers and others to form powerful teams that help people get well and resolve the unmet legal needs playing a role in their illness , reducing health care costs. We applaud the Representatives for their sponsorship of the "Medical-Legal Partnership for Health Act ," which is an important step forward in efforts to expand such partnerships into more communities."

First created in 1993 at Boston Medical Center, there are now more than 85 Medical-Legal Partnerships across the U.S., serving more than 200 hospitals and health centers in 38 states.

Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University's College of Law have been collaborating on this successful project to address the unmet legal challenges facing the underserved patients and families in Central New York. The Syracuse Medical Legal Partnership is unique amongst medical legal partnerships in that their partnership is embedded in the training programs of a pediatrics department in a medical school and in a clinical program in a law school. They are training doctors and lawyers who will enter their practice better equipped to meet the needs of their patients and clients.

The Connecticut Medical-Legal Partnership Project , which was founded at the Connecticut Children's Hospital with the Center for Children's Advocacy , and now serves multiple healthcare partners in Connecticut including the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain , is the second-longest running MLP in the country after the Boston MLP.

Medical-Legal Partnerships have been endorsed by or received 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.

Specifically , the Medical-Legal Partnerships for Health Act will:

Save Health Care Costs: The average Emergency Room visit costs $383 , and the average cost per day of a hospital stay is $5 ,217. Preliminary data from an ongoing pilot study in Boston shows a 50% decrease in Emergency Room visits following an intervention by a Medical-Legal Partnership. These partnerships bring significant cost savings to patients , health systems , and tax payers by preventing poor health and illness resulting from unmet basic needs , keeping patients out of the Emergency Room.

Support Hospitals and Attorneys Partnering to Solve Local Problems: The Act provides Federal support to hospitals and attorneys to establish Medical-Legal Partnerships , and it encourages local buy-in by requiring each grant recipient to match grant funds by at least 10 percent.

Support a Healthier Workforce: Absenteeism and presenteeism (lost productivity due to illness-related underperformance) cost America's businesses over $1 trillion a year. Individuals who are helped by Medical-Legal Partnerships will become healthier and more productive workers , improving their employment opportunities and benefitting their employers.

Finally , the Act prohibits federal funds being used to serve undocumented immigrants or engage in medical malpractice and abortion litigation.

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