The Politics of Medical-Legal Partnership

I’m interested in the politics of Medical-Legal Partnership.

As I travel around each MLP site, I’ve been asking MLP partners whether MLP has a political aspect because it seeks to address the social conditions underlying poor health? The follow-up is whether the MLP movement may be vulnerable because of this, or instead enjoys broad appeal regardless of politics?

While responses have varied, all participants believe that there is sufficient appeal in the MLP model for both liberals and conservatives. Two of the most compelling pieces of evidence for this are legislative actions to support the MLP model.

The Federal initiative, referred to in the post Mintz-Levin: Pro Bono for the Long Haul , involved Republican and Democrat Federal Senators co-sponsoring a Bill that would enable the establishment and comprehensive evaluation of multiple MLP sites across the United States. While the Bill was first introduced in 2010, and renewed last year, and has not yet been passed, the initiative is widely cited as evidence of the broad appeal of MLP.

While impressive enough, a similar Bill became law in New York state on 23 September 2011, making New York the first state to formally endorse the MLP model. Co-sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon (Republican) and NYS Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (Democrat) it is justifiably cited as irrefutable evidence of MLPs broad appeal.

According to Randye Retkin, director of the New York MLP LegalHealth (a program of the New York Legal Assistance Group), “… By enacting this law, New York State has demonstrated a commitment to addressing the social conditions that cause health disparities. In addition, these partnerships assist healthcare facilities in preventing unnecessary hospital readmission and providing safe and appropriate discharge planning. The law is an important public health tool that will serve as a model for other states across the country.”1

While there may well be a politics to Medical-Legal Partnership, it seems that all parties can find common ground that they represent an effective means of meeting the legal needs of low-income populations while working for improved health outcomes and system-wide efficiencies.

1. New York Legal Assistance Group – LegalHealth, Director’s Message at, accessed 16 April 2012.

Peter Noble


  1. “The law is an important public health tool…” – well said. We need greater recognition of this in Australia.

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